Rural eastern Kentucky has been hit hard by power outages caused mostly by power lines that have broken under the weight of ice and fallen trees, officials and experts say.
As of Friday, the damage has left roughly 49,000 households and businesses without power, said Kenya Stump, the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Energy Policy.
“And that’s down from a high of about 154,000,” she said.
A significant proportion of the outages were in the state’s rural east, where thousands have gone without power for more than a week, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
The worst-hit counties are also some of Kentucky’s poorest, where upward of a fifth of all residents — and in some places, nearly a third — live below the poverty line.
The region was struck by multiple ice storms over the span of a week, and its hilly, forested terrain has further hindered repair efforts, said Nick Comer, a spokesman for the East Kentucky Power Cooperative, which generates and distributes power to parts of the region through 16 local cooperatives.
Comer said roughly 40,000 customers covered by the cooperatives were without power. In Boyd County on the West Virginia border, 11,500 homes and businesses were without power Friday, according to the website for Kentucky Power, another major local utility. Kentucky Power said a total of 24,516 of its customers were without power.
More than 5,800 households and businesses were also without running water, as of Friday, according to John Mura, a spokesman for Kentucky’s Energy and Environment cabinet. Another 40,676 were advised to boil their water.
The Kentucky National Guard has been helping local authorities and residents conduct wellness checks and transport people to warming stations and shelters, the Herald-Leader reported.