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Fallen trees block one lane of Route 3 in Boyd County.

 

With an estimated 800 trees cracking and falling across the roads and widespread power outages, Boyd County first responders are working around the clock to help respond to calls and help those affected find warmth.

County Judge-Executive Eric Chaney estimated about 500 trees fell Monday night alone, hampering emergency response efforts. On Monday, Chaney called in the National Guard and received four troops — “the best of the best,” as the judge said.

However, Chaney said with all the trees down on the roads, it’s proven challenging even with the extra hands.

“Last night, I was out with them (the Guard) and we spent seven hours trying to get to a family to get them to the convention center,” Chaney said. “As far as our response is going, I couldn’t be more proud. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation and it’s people helping people.”

Chaney has requested a “cut and throw” team from the Guard — a group of soldiers who will cut up trees and toss them to the side of the road.

The judge-executive also noted the Boyd County Convention & Arts Center in Cannonsburg will continue to be used as a warming shelter until the end of this ordeal. Chaney said crews on side-by-sides are running fuel to folks with generators as well.

“We’re not at capacity by any stretch,” Chaney said. “A lot of people out here in the country have generators and are prepared to ride out situations like this.”

Boyd Sheriff Bobby Jack Woods was supposed to take a little vacation this month — first the weather turned it into a stay-cation, but now he’s back on the job. Woods said working in this ice storm is “organizing chaos.”

“You go out there and this road’s blocked and that road’s blocked, there’s a large swath of people without power,” Woods said. “It kind of reminds me of those old Mad Max movies with Mel Gibson out there.”

Woods said deputies are putting in overtime to staff the warming shelter, as well as responding to calls from the community. Some of those calls are run-of-the-mill thefts, burglaries and the like — others are requests for transporting folks to the warming shelter, or running them medicine and groceries.

“We’re in survival mode right now,” Woods said. “All the agencies are working together to get people through this.”

At Kentucky State Police Post 14 — which covers Boyd, Greenup, Carter and Lawrence counties — Trooper Shane Goodall said the trees and the mass power outages have led to a lot of welfare checks.

“Our dispatch is flooded, usually with a lot of relatives from out of town calling to have us check up on an older loved one,” Goodall said. “We’re still getting routine calls for service as well.”

Facing downed power lines and tree limbs, Goodall said troopers are also experiencing hardships making it to the calls. In fact, even hoofing it to the homes proved dangerous, Goodall said.

“Last night (Monday) we were trying to walk to a home, but we couldn’t make it,” Goodall said. “Trees were coming down left and right, so we had to run to avoid getting hit by limbs. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Boyd County EMS Director Chuck Cremeans said his crews are working closely with the volunteer fire departments to get to medical calls. He said in some cases, a supervisor is following an ambulance in a four-wheel-drive truck. When they get to a spot where the ambulance can’t get to the patient, the truck goes ahead and brings them back to the medical unit.

“We’re working well with the volunteer fire departments to get these trees out of the roads when we’re on our way to call,” Cremeans said. “We’re really at the mercy of the weather here. But I want the public to know if you call 9-11 and you need us, we’ll get to you as fast as we can.”

So far, Cremeans said his crews haven’t had to respond too much to exposure calls, which he credits to many homes having alternative heat sources, such as kerosene and wood stoves. However, the power outages have affected oxygen patients.

“There’s a lot of people on home oxygen who need a source of electricity to run their machines,” Cremeans said. “Their back-up tanks are limited, so we’ve been getting calls about that.”

Over in Ashland, Chief Todd Kelley has pulled detectives and school resource officers off typical duties to run calls. Even though the weather is making travel and power difficult, it hasn’t put a dent in crime, Kelley noted.

“We’re still getting normal calls for service, like domestics and fights,” Kelley said. “The snow hasn’t stopped that.”

In addition, Kelley said his officers are responding to a lot of welfare checks, typically for senior citizens whose families can’t get to them because of the conditions.

Like in the county, Kelley said one of the biggest issues are trees blocking the roads, particularly when they’re tangled up in power lines.

“We can’t get them open right away, because the power company has to come out and cut the power to the live wires,” Kelley said. “That’s been an issue.”

Ashland Fire Chief Greg Ray said his crews have been “running like crazy” in the conditions, trying to keep the roads clear. Since the start of the ice, Ray said his crews have responded to 100 calls for trees and power lines in the roads.

Ray said some of the trees are handled by the fire department, but others are tangled in power lines and require Appalachian Power to come out and shut off the power.

However, one thing Ray said his department has been blessed with is the lack of calls to car wrecks.

“I don’t want to jinx ourselves, but we haven’t got too many of those,” Ray said.

Kelley also said the public has largely been cooperating with staying inside — however, he asked folks not to get complacent.

“I think some people might want to get out, but we’re asking them to stay inside because now the temperature has dropped and we have a solid sheet of ice under the snow and slush,” Kelley said.

Woods said for those who can — “stay in and stay warm.”

Be advised, as of Monday, Feb. 15, a level 3 snow emergency has been instituted countywide. All roads are limited to emergency personnel, essential workers traveling to work, delivery of medical supplies, access or delivery of medical treatments and snow removal.

Anyone needing evacuation from their homes due to power outages may call the Emergency Operations Center at either (606) 393-1801 or (606) 393-1842.

Greenup County E911 announced it opened a warming center at the Senior Center at 2513 Reed Street in Flatwoods on Tuesday. Director Buford Hurley announced the National Guard is also at the EOC to assist with Medical Staff Transport. 

The Emergency Operations Center in Greenup can be reached at (606) 262-2634, (606) 473-5644 or eoc@greenupe911.com.

 

(606) 326-2653 |

henry@dailyindependent.com

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