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High winds clip Spencer County

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By Robin Bass

Most Spencer County residents suffered merely a glancing blow from the remnants of Hurricane Ike Sunday afternoon – especially considering the widespread damage and power outages just 20 miles north in Louisville.

Following Sunday’s afternoon windstorm, about 1,500 Salt River Electric Cooperative customers were without electricity at the peak of disrupted service said Randy Burba, vice president of Customer Service and Marketing. SREC services a total of 4,500 Spencer County customers primarily outside the city limits of Taylorsville. Kentucky Utilities services Taylorsville electric customers and a representative from the power company did not immediately return calls.

“Our crews worked all day Sunday and throughout the night,” said Burba.

By 3 p.m. Monday, Burba said only a few customers on Bowman Lane were still without power – and he anticipated that area would be back on line within hours.

“It was a big outage for us, especially being so widespread,” said Burba.

A total of 25,000 SREC customers in Spencer, Bullitt, Nelson and Washington counties experienced power outages following high winds that snapped branches, uprooted trees and brought down service lines. In Bullitt County, more than 18,000 customers were without power.

Burba said that it was fortunate SREC was not requested to send crews to assist with hurricane damage in Texas. Having their own crews available, along with the help of nearly two dozen linemen from other electrical companies, aided SREC in quickly restoring power, said Burba.

“We were very fortunate. Again,” said Emergency Management Director Darrell Stevens. “One of these days, we’re going to get hit hard.”

Stevens, who also serves as EMS director, said not one ambulance responded to a storm-related call.

Not true for the Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Department, which responded to 12 runs all within a few hours of each other. Trees were reported blocking the roadways of Shelbyville Road, Dale Lane, Brashears Creek and Kings Church roads. Residents also reported many instances of power, cable and telephone lines knocked down by broken limbs.

“The fire department did an excellent job getting roads cleared (of debris),” said Taylorsville Police Chief Toby Lewis.

Once the fire department confirmed that power to downed lines was off, areas were marked off with yellow caution tape.

Regardless if residents think power has been disconnected, Fire Chief Nathan Nation said, “Assume that the power lines are live. Consider all downed lines a hazard. Report them and stay away.”

After the windstorm, many could be found surveying the damage to the homes and businesses.

Larry and Stephanie Wells stood in their driveway in Elk Creek and watched as loose shingles waved at them in the wind from their roof.

John LaBraney, maintenance supervisor for Spencer Village, worked to the hum of a chainsaw while carving up pieces of toppled trees at the Taylorsville apartment complex.

Oly Mahaffey scaled the steep roof of his East Main Street home and attached a blue tarp over the indentation caused by a large Water Maple.

Mahaffey, his wife and son were at home during the windstorm. He said that right before the tree fell on their home, he heard cracking, but figured it was thunder. Then after the mighty maple fell and the stones from the fireplace began rolling down the roof, “for a split second I thought it was an earthquake.”

Mahaffey’s wife, Eszter, was in the kitchen and saw the tree fall on their Taylorsville home.

“It was very scary,” said Eszter Mahaffey, “After that happened, I was in shock. For an hour, I was shaking.”

By Monday, the family was in better spirits. They were still without power to the home, but a helpful neighbor had provided them a small amount of electricity via extension cord – just enough power to make hot coffee and keep their food cold in the refrigerator.

“The good part is that everybody is fine,” said Oly Mahaffey.

Unlike the Mahaffeys and the few barns that nearly blew down, most damage being reported appeared to be minor roof and car damage, said Terry Skaggs, Spencer County Farm Bureau agency manager.

Skaggs said that 40 storm claims had been filed with his office during their first two hours of business Monday morning. During the February 6 storms when tornadoes touched down in the county, his office fielded over 350 claims.

“I would estimate that we would have at least that much (this time),” said Skaggs.

While waiting for adjusters, Skaggs recommended that homeowners go ahead and make any emergency repairs to prevent further damage. Be sure to record time and resources spent on repairs, keeping all receipts, as they may be reimbursable.

“We’ll get someone out to look at (the damage) as soon as possible,” said Skaggs. “Hopefully, people can be patient with this.”

County residents with broken trees limbs and other plants can drop off their storm debris at the south end of Ray Jewell Park during daylight hours, said Spencer County Judge Executive David Jenkins. Only branches with a diameter of six inches or less will be accepted. Jenkins said he has secured the use of a wood chipper for next week and that the mulch generated from the storm debris will be used to mulch areas in the parks.

Residents will be permitted to burn natural vegetation, such as tree limbs, from Sunday’s windstorm, but the burning of building materials is prohibited, said Taylorsville-Spencer County Fire Chief Nathan Nation.