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The City of Ashland conducted a press conference at the Ashland Police Department on Friday afternoon.

ASHLAND The City of Ashland is working full-throttle to address issues posed by the 1-2-3 punch winter storm system that has rocked northeast Kentucky, city officials said at a Friday presser.

Mayor Matt Perkins called on citizens to take care of one another and check on their neighbors as AEP and works closely with local governments to get power — and needed heat — restored.

“I’ve been volunteering at the county warming center for the last three days, and I can say I’m impressed with how people — even with their own problems and outages at home — have come together to help one another,” Perkins said. “This is what eastern Kentucky is all about — treating each other like family.”

Perkins continued, “Our citizens are cold, they are tired but they have not given up.”

City Manager Mike Graese provided an update on vital statistics in terms of the city’s response to the crisis. According to the city manager, 160 calls have been fielded by the new coordination center — a central information hub that works in conjunction with the Office of Emergency Management — and 200 miles of city roads have been treated and plowed.

The number for the coordination center, which fields calls in Ashland for getting transportation to the county warming shelter, report trees down and water interruptions, is (606) 385-3119.

Between 150 and 200 trees have been removed from city roads as well, Graese said.

Over the course of the storms, Graese said 11 of the 21 pump stations in the city had gone down due to electrical issues, with 850 customers out of a 14,000-customer water system without water at one time.

As of Friday, Graese said only one pump station was down, affecting 25 customers.

Luckily, the city has only dealt with six water breaks during the storm, allowing the utility department to lend a hand on in tree and snow removal, Graese said.

Calls to the fire department were up — Graese said Ashland Fire has fielded 189 calls since the first storm — roughly a month’s worth of calls in seven to 10 days. Most calls were related to trees in the road, however there were five fire calls, as well as a call to rescue a citizen who fell out of a tree while trimming it.

Ashland City Police have fielded 550 calls, including 45 wrecks and 52 welfare checks. Graese said there’s been intense concentration on patrols in areas of the city without power.

Thirty people have been transported to the warming center as well, Graese said.

City Commissioner Amanda Clark, who also manages external affairs for Kentucky Power locally, donned her AEP cardigan at Friday’s presser.

Clark said as of Friday morning, 26,000 customers in the service were without power with 9,500 of them in Boyd County. About 332 poles are broken and 40 transformers are out of commission as of Friday, Clark said.

The hardest hit and biggest pockets of outages, Clark said, is the areas where Boyd, Carter and Lawrence counties meet.

The commissioner said 2,000 workers are out doing their best to get power up and running. A big part of the issue is weather conditions have been unsafe for helicopters to “fly the lines” — tracing the miles upon miles of main transmission lines, Clark said.

Instead, the power company has to have workers go out by foot and walk the lines, visually inspecting where the damage in remote areas, Clark said.

“We understand the frustration level is rising with our customers, but as of right now, that’s what they’re having to do,” Clark said. “Having people go out on foot in the woods takes more time, as you can imagine.”

One silver lining, Clark reported, is crews working the Pike and Harlan county areas are wrapping up their work and should be shifted up to the Boyd, Carter and Lawrence county areas to work through the weekend.

Clark also warned against “false positive” alerts from AEP. Clark said whenever a home is restored in the grid, sometimes it will pop up for the whole grid — Clark said it is entirely automated. She said within 15 minutes, the system should sent out a notice that the power is in fact off. If that doesn’t happen and the power hasn’t been restored to your home, give Kentucky Power a call.

For those without power who might be running propane heaters inside, Ashland Fire Chief Greg Ray said having a carbon monoxide detector is crucial to prevent poisoning. Ashland Fire has also been assisting people in helping set up generators and heaters in a safe manner.

The number to the coordination center, the catch all filter of information in this crisis, is (606) 385-3119.

 

(606) 326-2653 |

henry@dailyindependent.com

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