MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Steve Beshear called up his entire Army National Guard on Saturday, tripling his troops with his state still reeling from a deadly ice storm that knocked out power from the Midwest to the East Coast.
More than half a million homes and businesses, most of them in Kentucky, remained with out electricity from the Ozarks through Appalachia, though temperatures creeping into the 40s helped a swarm of utility workers make headway. Finding fuel - heating oil along with gas for cars and generators - was another struggle for those trying to tough it out at home, with hospitals and
other essential services getting priority over members of the public.
The addition of 3,000 soldiers and airmen makes 4,600 Guardsmen pressed into service. It's the largest call-up in Kentucky history, which Beshear called an appropriate response to a storm that cut power to more than 600,000 people, the state's largest outage on record. Many people in rural areas cannot get out of their driveways due to debris and have no phone service, the governor said.
"With the length of this disaster and what we're expecting to be a multi-day process here, we're concerned about the lives and the safety of our people in their own homes," Beshear said, "and we need the manpower in some of the rural areas to go door-to-door and do a door-to-door canvass ... and make sure they're OK."
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.
“We’ve got people out in some areas we haven’t even visited yet,” Smith said.
“We don’t even know that they’re 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.
“We have plenty of folks ready to go, but there are some limitations with roads closed and icy conditions,” she noted.