By Steve Lannen and Ryan Alessi - firstname.lastname@example.org The ice storm that pounded Kentucky this week has now caused the state's largest power outage, surpassing the 600,000 customers who lost power after Hurricane Ike.
Kentucky Public Service Commission announced Thursday afternoon that more than 607,000 Kentucky electric customers were without power.
A state emergency official said Thursday that three deaths in Kentucky were associated with the winter storm.
Power outages by county
Utility officials estimated that more than 1.3 million homes and businesses across a wide swath of states were powerless early Thursday, and they warned that it could be mid-February before some customers had power. The storm has been blamed for at least 23 deaths.
Beshear told the Herald-Leader Thursday morning that Obama called him about 9 p.m. Wednesday and that they spoke for about 10 minutes.
"I talked with him about the various trouble spots we had, the lack of drinking water in some places, having to get heat to many of our shelters and nursing homes, and the widespread power outages," Beshear said. "He expressed his concern for the folks of Kentucky and wanted to let everyone know his thoughts and prayers were with us all."
Obama completed the paperwork in less than an hour.
Beshear planned to travel to Paducah, Henderson and Bowling Green by Blackhawk helicopter on Thursday. His mission was two-fold: to get updates from local officials and to explain what the state is doing to help.
From the helicopter looking out, "you can't really see the real devastation on the ground: the downed power lines, people in shelters, people having to be moved from nursing home to warm places," the governor said.
The state, along with 68 counties and 36 cities, were operating under states of emergency as ice continued to drag down power lines and branches clogged roadways.
In Lexington, about 37,000 customers remained without power on Thursday morning. In Madison County, about 19,300 were without power, which is about two-thirds of Kentucky Utilities' customers there, company spokesman Cliff Feltham wrote via e-mail. The approximate numbers of KU outages for some other counties are as follows:
■ Boyle County: 9,800
■ Scott County: 3,450
■ Clark County: 4,800
■ Woodford county: 6,600
■ Jessamine County: 900
"We should make some good headway today, but the X factor remains the ice in the trees," Feltham wrote. "As long as it's still there, we still have the risk of losing more customers as we gain others. We need a good warm spell to get the ice out of the equation."
It is supposed to reach 33 degrees Thursday in Lexington, but it will be below freezing Thursday night. This weekend appears to be the first real possibility of warmer days, with a high of 37 on Saturday and possibly 51 on Sunday.
It was relatively quiet in Lexington overnight. Tree limbs continued to fall and some transformers blew. Reports of power outages continued to come in but at a slower rate, the Lexington Fire Department said.
A mother and her three children in the 500 block of Patterson Street were taken to the University of Kentucky hospital, suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. They had been using a charcoal grill in their kitchen to keep warm, Assistant Fire Chief Marshall Griggs said.
Only three wrecks were reported by police. Seven streets or intersections remain blocked or have traffic signals not functioning due to falling limbs or power lines, Lexington police Lt. Thomas Curtsinger said.
Those areas include intersections along Tates Creek Road, Versailles Road, Georgetown Road at Ironworks Road, and Hanover Road, he said.
According to the letter Beshear sent to Obama, costs associated with the storm will exceed $5 million in damages, the minimum amount a state must spend to trigger federal assistance. The letter also states that at least seven wastewater-treatment plants were on bypass mode — meaning not all sewage was going through every stage of treatment — because of flooding or power outages. More than 20 outstanding requests for generators had not been honored, the letter said.
Buddy Rogers, spokesman for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said the three deaths in Kentucky blamed on the storm included a Montgomery County man who was on oxygen; he died after power went out in his home.
In Ohio County, Rogers said, downed trees across a road delayed and ambulance crew from reaching a home where a woman was found dead. Also in Ohio County, a woman was found dead at the bottom of her basement steps as she retrieved a kerosene heater.
In addition, the storm was blamed for a fatal wreck in Wayne County.
Late Wednesday morning, Jennifer A. Powell, of Monticello, lost control on Ky. 1546 about eight miles west of Monticello, Deputy Sheriff David Worley said. Her vehicle slid off the road, went into a creek and overturned.
She was taken to the Wayne County hospital and was transferred to the University of Kentucky Hospital, where she died Wednesday afternoon, Worley said.
The cause of death was hypothermia, the Fayette County Coroner said.