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By MARTY FINLEY
HARDIN COUNTY– As hurricane season surges forward, a renewed concern gripped people on the Gulf Coast last weekend as Hurricane Gustav barreled toward them, leading many to evacuate and seek shelter elsewhere.
The situation also has led to a renewed interest in helping those affected by the storm, whether they evacuated or stayed, and several organizations within Kentucky and Hardin County are involved.
Nolin RECC sent 14 of its personnel and seven trucks to Houma, La., a town lying west of New Orleans that was one of the areas hardest hit by Gustav. Vince Heuser, vice president of system operations for the utility company, said the employees will work with South Louisiana Electric Cooperative to restore power to the area, which had no electricity Monday. A second crew of 18 contract workers has been sent by Nolin RECC to Lafayette, La. to assist Southwest Louisiana Electric Membership Corp. in restoring power to its coverage area, which Heuser said is operating at 20 percent.
The company began planning the trip Friday and kept communications open with Louisiana personnel, he said. The crews left Tuesday and were expected to arrive and begin their work that night, expecting to stay until they are no longer needed.
Kentucky Utilities Co. spokesman Cliff Feltham said KU sent about 250 workers — consisting mostly of contractors — to help Entergy, an energy company that covers much of Louisiana, repair damages so that the company can regain control of the situation.
Feltham said the personnel left in segments and would reconvene at a staging ground of Entergy’s choosing. He said he was not certain yet where they would work.
“They’ll deploy wherever Entergy needs them,” he said.
And like Nolin RECC, they plan to do their job until they are needed back in Kentucky, Feltham said, which was unlikely until at least the end of the week.
“They’re there for the duration,” he said.
Todd Davis, vice president of Bluegrass Tank and Equipment in Elizabethtown, said his company has been hired by contractors associated with FEMA to provide water for trailers within the damaged areas. Davis said his company sent 11 tankers of water Tuesday and four Monday, with plans to send up to 20 more. The water will be used to operate sinks, showers, washing machines and other utilities needed by the contractors on behalf of storm victims.
The American Red Cross of Elizabethtown has partnered with Louisville’s branch to assist the nearly 1,500 evacuees who are seeking shelter at the Louisville Fairgrounds. Sharon Thompson, director of the Elizabethtown Red Cross, said there are about 100 to 150 volunteers working 12-hour shifts to keep the project maintained, providing dormitories, food and health services to those misplaced by the storm.
She said they likely will keep the shelter open for several more days and have recruited local volunteers through Saturday, including more than a dozen from Hardin County. Fifty to 60 volunteers are on call throughout the day, while the staff is normally trimmed to around 30 at night, she said, when they try to establish a quiet time for the guests.
The National Guard also has deployed units, including a unit of 27 cadets from Elizabethtown, to provide support in Alexandria, La., said Staff Sgt. Brandon Harlow at the National Guard Armory in Elizabethtown. Units from Brandenburg, Campbellsville, Glasgow and Monticello deployed as well, Harlow added.
Ira Dyer, deputy director of Hardin County EMS, said they have been asked by the state to put together supplies and personnel to be deployed if needed. He said his department on standby until they get the word to leave, but may be sent to the East Coast to assist with Hurricane Hanna instead.
“It’s one of [those] situations where you hurry up and wait,” he said.
Marty Finley can be
reached at (270) 505-1762