Saturday, January 31, 2009

443. The Ice Man Stayeth

Here's the good news - the temperature is 34 degrees and the sun is shining brightly here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. That's the extent of the good news.

Today's Courier reports 122,000 Louisville customers are without electricity. That's a bare minimum of one in seven Louisvillians, assuming that every customer accounts for only one person, which we all know is not the case. Chances are that up to 33% of Louisville residents remain without electricity. Louisville's population is around 711,000. That could mean just over 200,000 people in the dark. There are no closed-end estimates on when electricity will be fully restored. The problem is widespread throughout the state and well into other states. I've talked on the phone with friends in Green and Grayson counties, to the south and southwest, respectively, all of whom are power-less and powerless to get any power back. We are all at the mercy of the utility companies, which have brought in help from all over the country. Another friend in Elizabethtown says there is some problem with the water supply there, although they didn't fully explain themselves. There have been several deaths including a few here in Louisville.

Fortunately, I have power - as does my mother, although her's is not coming in a full force - her lights are dim; her furnace is only working part-time. I met my brother and a guy who works with him for a morning cleanup at mom's house. To be honest, my brother did most of the work which I thought was only fair since he hasn't cut the grass there since the 1980s. My mother's yard, property that has been in my family since 1951, is dotted with trees, large and small, old and young, leaf-bearing and needle-bearing, all of which suffered damage. Even with my mother's description (made entirely from looking out the windows as she has not been outside in four days), I wasn't prepared. There are several branches from every tree down in her yard, criss crossing the lawn, some against the house, her car, the street light, the electric line, and every other configuration. The fact that she has electricity at all is a little beyond belief. At the southeast corner of her driveway is a utility pole from which extend the wires to her house and three others. Branches from other trees, including one across the street, have severed the lines to the other three houses. Those lines, along with a large branch, are blocking the road. Rudely, people have been detouring around the lines driving about 30 feet up into her yard and then through it to another to get back upon the road. I'm not quite sure people would think some lady's yard is the appropriate place for a detour. Her street is a U-shaped lane, with double access to South Park Road. The impromptu detour has been closed. We piled about one half of the branches across it, a stack about 35 feet long and five to ten feet high. The street is, for the moment, a dead end at my mother's driveway.

On the north side of her house, a huge branch looked like it was torpedoed into the yard, taking part of her guttering with it. All that is fixable. The backyard seems to have lost trees as opposed to branches. When my brother and I were little, our grandfather built us a cabin in the far back corner of the yard. Over the years we planted trees here and there, all of which are 35 to 45 years old now. Over time, a few have come down through one means or another, always falling in the triangular space between the garage, the pool, and the house. And such is the same today. Several huge trees are down, but none of them hit anything, other than themselves. Looking for the silver linings behind the clouds, I told my mother that the Ice Storm of '09 probably saved her $10,000.00 in tree costs. All the trees have been topped out and trimmed up, at no cost, other than the removal of the debris. She smiled, but, like the electrical current in her house, it wasn't a very strong smile.

What is amazing is driving through entire neighborhoods that are still fully without power. Between here and there, it seems most of Smoketown and Germantown lacked power, as did Audubon Park and parts of Camp Taylor. Stoplights along much of Shelby Street and Poplar Level Road were not working. The picture shows Winter Avenue looking west toward the intersection at Barret Avenue - no lights. Closer to mom's house, there did seem to be more electricity for longer periods of space. Instead of entire neighborhoods out, the shortage is limited to a house here and a house there. But restoration will not come quickly as every street and every house on every street will be checked and rechecked before the grid is fully restored and power is flowing freely.

The first month of January has been interesting, if rather unproductive. It seems we can't quite get the year started. Between getting over Christmas and New Year's, the anticipation and then celebration of a new presidency (as much a celebration of getting rid of the old one), and then a cold spell and ice storm, it is time for January to take its leave. Bring on Month Number Two.

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Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.