KY ice storm called worst in history

Volunteers provide food, shelter, assistance removing debris around homes.

BY JIM SKILLINGTON | PARIS, TN | February 2, 2009

Chuck Haney, left, and Henry Weber set up cots at First United Methodist Church in Paris last week for residents who lost power in the ice storm.
Credit: First UMC, Paris, TN

It's being called the worst natural disaster in Kentucky's recent history and emergency officials warn it may be more that a week before all of the power is restored following January's ice storm which has also crippled parts of Tennessee and Arkansas.

Weather forecasters Monday were predicting strong winds and warning that even more trees and power lines may be knocked down.

While electrical power remains off to as many as 138,000 residents, faith-based organizations are gearing up assist from providing shelters to helping clearn up.

In Paris, both the First Presbyterian and First United Methodist Churches set up shelters last week while in Puryear, TN, members of the First Baptist Ministry and emergency responders worked to clear trees and brush brought down by the storm.

Many of the people staying in Tennessee shelters had driven from their homes in Kentucky.

The Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church activated its disaster response plan Friday and has set up call centers to connect volunteers with communities that need help. On Friday, generators were loaned to residents who require power for medical needs.

A special offering was taken in many Memphis Conference churches Sunday. According to Cathy Farmer, director of communications for the Conference, toll-free numbers have been set up for people to call when they need help removing trees or for volunteers who want to help.

Calling the storm "the biggest natural disaster this state has ever experienced in modern history," Kentucky's Gov. Steve Beshear called up members of the state's National Guard to help residents in the hardest hit areas of the state. The storm has been blamed for at least seven deaths in the state.

In addition to electrical outages, residents are also coping with a lack of water. In Louisville alone, at least 11 water mains were broken as a result of the freezing temperatures.

The Salvation Army said Friday that it had served thousands of meals to those impacted by the storm. In addition, it has been housing and providing showers for those seeking shelter.

Stephanie Backus contributed to this article

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