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Ice storm gives way to brighter days

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By Shannon Brock

Two weeks ago, the streets of Anderson County were paved in ice and snow after the worst winter storm in modern Kentucky history blew across the state.

But you’d never know it just by stepping outside today.

Temperatures have been in the 60s flirting with 70 since late last week, and all signs indicate that life is on its way back to normal — especially since power has been restored to all Anderson County residents.

“We have no electrical customers without power,” Emergency Management Director Charlie O’Neal said Monday afternoon, adding that only 36 Bell South customers remained without phones.

Considering the situation, Judge-Executive Steve Cornish said he was pleased with the response of the utility companies.

“The utility companies did a great job under the circumstances,” Cornish said.

At the worst point after the storm, nearly 700,000 Kentuckians — thousands of them in Anderson County — were without phones, power and, in some cases, heat.

Accounting for personnel, supplies and equipment used so far, O’Neal said the preliminary cost of the storm in Anderson County is right at $60,000.

“But that doesn’t include damages to utility infrastructure, and I’m sure they had a lot of damage,” he said. “We also don’t have all the expenses in.”

But President Barack Obama signed a major disaster declaration last Thursday opening the door to federal assistance for Anderson and over 90 other counties in Kentucky affected by the storm, according to a news release from the White House.

The federal funding is available to commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis. It is to cover costs of debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance.

According to a news release from Gov. Steve Beshear’s Communications Office, under such a declaration, the federal government usually reimburses 75 percent of local and state governmental expenditures on a range of items.

Beshear has requested 100 percent reimbursement of the costs for the expenses encountered in the first seven days of the storm. According to FEMA, that request is still being considered.

Beshear praised Obama’s timely response.

“I appreciate President Obama’s quick response to our request for a major disaster declaration following this devastating storm,” Beshear said in the news release. “This quick action allows state and local governments to recover significant expenditures they have incurred in response to the storm.

“I will continue to pursue 100 percent reimbursement for the seven days following storm and I’m hopeful that we will receive approval for this as well.”

According to a news release from Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office, McConnell wrote to the president on Jan. 28 and Feb. 2, urging him to consider Kentucky’s request for a federal disaster declaration.

“Severe snow and ice storms swept through the Commonwealth and caused extensive damage throughout Kentucky resulting in significant economic hardship and interrupting power to households in every region,” McConnell said in the release.

“I appreciate President Obama approving this request which will provide needed federal assistance to help my state recover from this natural disaster.”

So far, 101 Kentucky counties and 78 cities have declared emergencies, according to the news release from the governor’s office. As of last Thursday, 29 storm-related fatalities had been reported.

E-mail Shannon Mason Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.