January 31, 2009

January 31, 2009
It'll Be a Cold Day When...

Welcome to my last entry for January 2009. We are ending the month on a very cold note here in North Florida with freezing temperatures at night.

Luckily, we only get this cold of weather in Florida a few times during the winter and nothing like they get up north. One of the biggest reasons I live in the south is I never have to worry about digging my butt out of the sunshine!

Today is going to be a down day for me. I have been running 90mph for the past few days doing events and need to get caught up on emails, telephone calls and work even though it is the weekend.

The subject for today is the cold. Now as I mentioned we are having freezing temperatures in north Florida but we go above freezing during the daytime. Other parts of our country are not so lucky.

Utility crews renewed work in subfreezing temperatures Saturday in their effort to put the power back on for nearly a million customers left in the dark by an ice storm that crippled parts of several states this week.

Thousands of people in ice caked Kentucky awoke in motels and shelters, asked to leave their homes by authorities who said emergency teams in some areas were too strapped to reach everyone in need of food, water and warmth.

A 20 degree temperature boost was forecast across much of the region, a boon to the power crews but one that carried with it the threat of flooding.

Dozens of deaths have been reported and many people are pleading for a faster response to the power outages. About 536,000 homes and businesses across Kentucky were without power, down from more than 600,000 the largest outage in state history, surpassing the damage last year from the remnants of Hurricane Ike.

The outages disabled water systems in much of the western part of the state, where some in rural areas resorted to dipping buckets in a creek. Authorities warned it could be days or weeks before power was restored in the most remote spots.

That uncertainty had many appealing for help. Officials issued curfews Friday and urged those in dark homes to leave.

"We're asking people to pack a suitcase and head south and find a motel if they have the means, because we can't service everybody in our shelter," said Crittenden County Judge-Executive Fred Brown, who oversees about 9,000 people, many of whom spent a fifth night sleeping in the town's elementary school.

Local officials grew angrier at what they said was a lack of help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In Kentucky's Grayson County, about 80 miles southwest of Louisville, Emergency Management Director Randell Smith said the 25 National Guardsmen who have responded have no chain saws to clear fallen trees. He said roads are littered with fallen trees and people shivering in bone-chilling cold are in need.

"We have got people out in some areas we have not even visited yet," Smith said. "We do not even know that they are alive."

Smith said FEMA was still a no show days after the storm.

FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak said some agency workers had begun working Friday in Kentucky and more help was on the way. Hudak said FEMA also has shipped 50 to 100 generators to the state to supply electricity to such facilities as hospitals, nursing homes and water treatment plants.

From Missouri to Ohio, thousands were waiting in shelters for the power to return. Others were trying to tough it out at home.

The storm that began in the Midwest had been blamed or suspected in at least 42 deaths, including 11 in Kentucky, nine in Arkansas, six each in Texas and Missouri, three in Virginia, two each in Oklahoma, Indiana and West Virginia and one in Ohio. Most were blamed on hypothermia, traffic accidents and carbon monoxide poisoning.

President Barack Obama on Friday declared a federal emergency for Missouri, making the state eligible for federal funds even as power outages lingered in much of the southern portion of the state.

In Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear said crews were working around the clock to restore power and get food and water to needed areas.

Laura Howe, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, said the organization had opened more than 34 shelters for some 2,000 people.

Doris Hemingway, 78, spent three days bundled in blankets to ward off the cold in her Leitchfield mobile home. News that it could take up to six weeks for power to be restored sent Hemingway and his husband, Bill, into a shelter at a local high school.

"I would pray awhile and I would cry awhile," Doris Hemingway said. "It is the worst I have ever seen."

So keep those less fortunate in our thoughts and prayers. I know my friend Karen is in Massachusetts going through the same problems.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

Big bear hug,

Daddy Dab