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Lights back on; cleanup continues

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Outside utility crews offer aid after storm causes major outages

By Vince Luecke

PERRY COUNTY – The long job of restoring  power to thousands of Perry Countians left in the cold and dark by last week's ferocious winter storm concluded Tuesday evening.

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The next major task, local officials said this week, is cleaning up downed trees and limbs, a task similar to one undertaken after September's big windstorm but made harder by winter cold.

"Mother Nature dealt the cards and we played the hand  she dealt us," Tell City Street Commissioner Jeff Everly said Monday.

A heavy coating of ice downed power lines across the county Jan. 27-28. Falling trees and limbs closed roadways and snapped power lines across the county. Power was gradually restored over several days.  

Southern Indiana Power had all of its customers online Tuesday evening. The cooperative's own line crews were aided by workers from 19 outside teams, many of them from other Hoosier rural-electric cooperatives in parts of the state not hit by the storm.

Also helping were nine tree-service crews. In all, Southern Indiana Power had more than 80 people working to restore power.  Close to 6,600 Southern Indiana Power customers were in the dark immediately after the ice storm but the number steadily dropped. By Thursday morning, 2,500 customers were still without power but the number had been reduced to 1,800 by Friday morning. Crews worked through the weekend.

Now that power has been restored, employees will be double-checking repairs and clearing trees and limbs that may still pose problems.  

Tell City Electric Department employees worked continuously to restore power to the 1,500 homes and businesses left in the dark by the storm, Superintendent Marlow Smethurst reported Monday. Four two-person crews from other cities answered a call for help placed with the Indiana Municipal Electric Association. The city of Greenfield sent two crews, with Paoli and Rockville each dispatching two people.

Power was restored to Tell City customers by 11 a.m. Saturday. The only exceptions were homes that had damage to service lines connecting to residences.

"We're connecting these when repairs are made," Smethurst said.

Tell City Building Inspector Bob Young was working with the electric utility to get homes reconnected as soon as possible.

Tell City leaders heaped thanks on departments for their response to the storm. "Everyone did their jobs well and I've received lots of compliments," Mayor Barbara Ewing said at Monday's meetings of the Tell City Common Council and Board of Public Works and Safety.

"For the second time in the past year, I'm proud to say I live here," Tell City Councilman John Little told Smethurst in thanking him and electric-department crews for their hard work last week and in their response to September's windstorm that also cut power to some residents.

Smethurst thanked customers for their patience.

The News has received several letters thanking local utility and street workers. Those will be published in Monday's edition.

Cannelton Utilities

Power was restored to all Cannelton residents by Friday evening. The storm interrupted power to much of the city Tuesday evening and crews worked continuously to get lights back on, Mayor Smokey Graves said. As in the aftermath of September's windstorm, Cannelton residents can stack downed limbs for pickup or transport them behind the floodwall. See details on limb disposal on Page 1A.

Troy residents were spared major outages last week, though residents of Troy Ridge Road were offline for a couple of hours.

Shelter Concludes Work

An American Red Cross shelter that opened last week wrapped up its work Tuesday after serving dozens of hot meals and providing a warm place to spend the night for up to 15 people.  

Shelter operations moved from the Schergens Center to the parish hall at St. Paul Catholic Church in Tell City. Meals were also taken to a shelter in Hancock County.

Recreational Areas Closed

Downed limbs and trees across roads and in campground areas have closed several recreation areas in the Hoosier National Forest, including Saddle Lake, German Ridge, Mano Point, Buzzard Roost and Indian Lake.

Celina Lake Road and the North Face camp loop are open to winter-hardy campers but visitors should watch for blocked roads and trails. Forest Service workers will be clearing recreation roads and trails.

Lost Radio Recovered

Everly called The News Tuesday to thank Casey Electric of Tell City. A company employee found a street-department radio accidentally dropped while limbs were being chipped.

"We're very grateful to have it back and I thought they should get a public pat on the back," Everly said.

Limb Disposal

Residents of Tell City and Cannelton are encouraged to stack downed limbs along streets and alleys for pickup or chipping.

Tell City Street Commissioner Jeff Everly said crews are working west to east but will make more one pass with city chippers.  He asks residents to place the butt-end of limbs facing streets and alleys for easier pickup. However, limbs should not be placed in roadways.

Cannelton residents can stack limbs for pickup, Mayor Smokey Graves said Wednesday. Limbs can also be taken behind the city's floodwall, just as they were after September's storm.

Licensed Contractors

Bob Young, Tell City's building inspector, warns residents to exercise caution when being solicited by contractors, especially those they are not familiar with, seeking to perform home repairs.

Contractors must be insured and licensed by the city, he said. Young's office can provide information on licensing and insurance coverage. Call 547-7490 for information.

Damage Reports

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is gathering damage reports from Hoosier citizens, governmental entities and non-profit organizations that sustained damage caused by severe weather beginning Jan. 26.

Hoosiers can report damage online at https://oas.in. gov/hs/damage until Feb. 17. Citizens will be asked to provide their name, address, phone number, damage to property and type of damage the property sustained. Losses can include structural damage to businesses, homes and loss of personal property.

Government and private non-profits should contact the Perry County Emergency Management Agency at 547-4426.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security will use the information to help quantify losses from severe weather that resulted in ice, snow and flooding to determine if federal assistance should be requested.

Individuals will not be in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Information will be used to help local emergency management agencies and IDHS determine if federal assistance can be pursued.

IDHS, other state agencies and partner organizations have been working closely with local emergency management agencies to determine needs that would require support beyond the county level.

All local requests have been fulfilled, and no federal assistance has been required to date.