January 26th, 2009 marked Kentucky’s worst ice storm in its recorded history. Ice storms can be crippling as a thin layer of ice coats almost everything it possibly can.
Precipitation comes down as freezing rain and immediately freezes. It forms a smooth coat of ice over everything the rain comes into contact with. The thin layer of ice covers branches and trees. The ice is heavy once it freezes on the tree branches and the weight of the ice causes the branches to break, and even entire trees can freeze and fall from the ice.
Power lines are also not immune to an ice storm. A quarter inch of ice accumulation can add approximately 500 pounds of weight. This will explain why large trees, power lines, electric poles etc.. can come crashing down in an ice storm.
Not only do things fall, but because of the ice freezing even on roads, driveways and outside stairs, people fall from slipping, and cars crash, the drivers unable to control their cars on a layer of ice covering the roads.
Soon after experiencing this crippling ice storm at the end of January, on February 11, 2009, a cold front set in with winds over 60mph enveloping the state. Over 700,000 households and businesses lost power across the state of Kentucky.
President Obama’s Administration was quick to declare the area a Federal Emergency. The state of Kentucky is now asking FEMA-PA (Federal Emergency Management Agency-Public Assistance) to cover the cost of their disaster 100% for the first 7 years. This has been brought to the government’sattention, however no decision has yet been made. A positive outcome of this disaster is FEMA-PA pilot program which will enable FEMA to cut through red tape and distribute funds more easily following a natural disaster.
Two major Utility companies are hard hit, namely Louville Gas & Electric (LG&E) which cost them $45 million to restore power to homes and businesses; and Kentucky Utilities (KU) which cost them $62 million to restore power. This will cause taxes to increase in the state in order for the state to be able to pay off the costs of the damage due to the ice storm. Unfortunately, the emergency money reserved for natural disasters or emergencies was not enough to cover the cost of the actual damage. LG&E had only 4.4 million dollars in emergency funds, and KU had 2.6 million dollars, a mere drop in the bucket.
Volunteers helped to bring Kentucky out of its dire state. Volunteers came from surronding states to help out in 192 shelters across Kentucky. They provided food, shelter and water to over 8000 people.