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The following is a partial letter I wrote to a good friend of mine who lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the weather has been 82 degrees with sunshine and warm island breezes. While tropical winds were blowing south of us, we were in the midst of one of the worst winter ice storms on record.
On January 7th, I signed a Declaration of a Local State of Emergency for the City.This past 2 weeks here in Taylorsville and Spencer County have been amazing. Rain turned to ice; ice turned to snow; then more ice covered trees, streets, roads and power lines.
Our City and County went dark, and almost everyone was left without heat; without lights; without power. After scrambling through the house for candles, flashlights, Coleman lanterns and oil lamps, the cell phone went to work and stayed busy with calls going out and coming in all through the night. Firehouse Station One was set up as a command post, additional city police were called in, Department of Public Works crews arrived to monitor the water and sewer plants to make sure they remained operational through the night and all city and county agencies were notified.
The next morning the County Judge and I set up an emergency meeting with all City and County departments, at the EMS office. This was one of the few places that had power. Those meeting that morning were City Police, Department of Public Works, County Road Department, School System, EMS, Fire Department, Mayor and County Judge.
Within 2 hours an Emergency Shelter was opened at the High School, dispatch was notified, EMS workers transported cots, blankets and bedding, and the cafeteria kitchen staff was preparing food as people began to come in.
The shelter remained open for 10 days for those needing a place to sleep or those stopping in for a hot shower, a place to warm up, and a hot meal. When people could not get to the shelter, firefighters transported them as well as fighting fires within the county. They were tired, worked with no sleep, yet were cheerful and dedicated. The EMS staff worked tirelessly to provide comfort and medical assistance. People who left the shelter and went home after their power came back up returned to volunteer their time to help others.
The School System provided the shelter, food and kitchen staff to prepare the meals. Other groups brought in homemade bean soup and pans of cornbread for everyone in their effort to help. “First Response” delivered truck loads of cots, blankets, pillows and bedding. Wheelchairs were provided by Signature Healthcare, additional chairs were brought in from City Hall. Movies were provided for the kids. When the school shelter had to be closed as plans were made to reopen the schools, an additional shelter had to be opened to provide the emergency housing. The auxiliary shelter was opened at On the Way Cafe where Lisa opened her door and her heart to a community still in need.
At City Hall, Emergency update meetings were held twice a day; at 10 AM and 4 PM. Update reports were given on the progress and power outages from Salt River Rural Electric and Kentucky Utilities, County roads and city streets were brined, salted and plowed. Department of Public Works gave updated reports of all pumping stations for water and waste water plants, updated reports from Police and Law Enforcement, EMS runs and shelter reports, magistrates reported on activities and needs from their Districts, weather reports were advised, and Media and school closings were updated, and information was shared from City and County to State and Federal Agencies. There have been meetings and conference calls with Emergency Management in Frankfort and FEMA. You remember all the Hurricane damage in Puerto Rico over 10 years ago when YOU worked for FEMA! But, I’ve got to tell you, Jim. I’ve learned a lot about how people in a community can pull together when times get tough. Call you soon...Don”
In the midst of this disaster, there are so many people to thank.
First of all, Thank you to Brett Beaverson, Chuck Adams, and school system volunteers for providing food, lunchroom staff and the High School to use as an emergency community shelter. Thank you to Darryl Stevens, Director of Emergency Management, and the EMS staff for their contribution of medical assistance; in particular J.D. Fleming and his family for their help.
Thank you to Taylorsville - Spencer County Fire District Chief Nathan Nation and the team who worked through the nights without rest while battling major house fires in the county and transporting people to shelter. Some of these men traveled to Western Kentucky to help the relief effort in Princeton, KY. These guys are heroes.
Thank you to Chief Toby Lewis and the city police department for driving the subdivisions and city streets announcing over a loud-speaker public address system that shelter was available and going door to door to check on the welfare of people.
Thank you to Harold Compton and crew of the Department of Public Works who worked night and day to restore and maintain power to water pumping stations and sewer treatment plants as well as keeping our city streets cleared.
Thank you to Collis Rogers and the county work crews for what must have seemed like an endless job clearing county roads from ice and downed tree limbs.
Thank you to Dispatch for handling the storm of emergency and information calls coming in and keeping communications open.
Thank you to the county Magistrates for the work and reports in their districts with their focus being on the welfare of our citizens in those areas.
Thank you to City Clerk Steve Biven for his coordination of vital information to all media outlets.
I thank County Judge David Jenkins for working with me during this emergency disaster as well as all City and County agencies that pulled together. It made a difference.
And, last but not least, thank you to neighbors who helped neighbors.
This next week we are going to meet again, look back on this event, and review what we did right, what we could have done better, and how to be better prepared next time. Right now we need to focus on a permanent Community Emergency Shelter.
There will be a next time and we need to be ready. As Shakespeare said;... “The readiness is all.”
-Mayor Don Pay