Ice devastates nearby county

Thousands still without power

Scott Patton of Giant Communications reconnects a wire Wednesday near Liberty Street in Oskaloosa. Fallen tree limbs have caused power outages throughout the town. Patton said he had been connecting wires all day so they'll work once power is back on.

Out of the cold

Much of Jefferson County is without electricity because of this week’s storm.

Emergency shelters are open at Kentucky Township Community Building, 604 Front St. in Perry; Living Water Church, a half-mile west of Oskaloosa along Kansas Highway 92; and the McLouth fire station, 206 Lucy St.

Warming centers – open 24 hours for anyone who wants to stop by long enough to get warm – are at Meriden fire station, 200 S. Miller St.; and the Valley Falls fire station, 204 Louisa St.

? Jefferson County is reeling from Tuesday’s ice storm, and it could be several days before full power is restored, emergency officials said.

“We’ve lost major transmission lines and transfer stations,” Emergency Management director Doug Schmitt said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a situation this bad.”

At noon Wednesday, 75 percent of the county remained without power, he said.

Wednesday morning, county officials began operating out of the emergency operations center, which had partial power with generator backup. A constant stream of phone calls was coming in from residents seeking help or wanting to know when their power would be restored, Schmitt said.

“They can’t get in to the power companies, so they are calling us,” he said.

The two primary power suppliers in Jefferson County are Westar Energy and Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative of McLouth. Wednesday evening 5,545 Westar customers in Jefferson County remained without power, according to the company’s Web site. The outages were concentrated in Oskaloosa, McLouth, Meriden and Valley Falls with other outages scattered in the rural areas.

Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric phone lines were constantly busy Wednesday and no information was available from the cooperative.

Massive tree damage

The county was assessing the overall damage from the storm. In Oskaloosa, numerous trees and limbs had fallen and some had to be cleared from streets. Other trees bowed under the weight of ice and appeared ready to fall.

Oskaloosa firefighters opened a shelter Tuesday night at the Eagles Lodge. The lodge had partial power and a generator was set up.

Wednesday morning, Mike and Barbara Tarver and their two young sons were the only ones in the lodge. They had left their Oskaloosa apartment to get warm. They were unsure how long they were going to stay, but were taking the inconvenience in stride.

“We used to live in Michigan so we’re used to the cold,” Mike Tarver said. “It’s just Mother Nature.”

Others in Oskaloosa were trying to remain in their homes. Daniel Duckworth was outside surveying the damage to trees and limbs that had fallen in his yard. Luckily none struck his house.

“If somebody wants firewood they can come up and get it,” he said with a chuckle.

Next door, Julie Smith recalled how she was standing in a neighbor’s yard on Tuesday when she heard the cracking of a big tree in her back yard as part of it collapsed.

“I ran. It really scared me,” she said.

Part of a tree fell in another direction. “It kissed the barn,” Smith said.

Smith, who operates a day care out of her home, was out of business until power could be restored. Smith and her boyfriend, Wade Olson, heard trees cracking and falling throughout the neighborhood Tuesday night, they said.

“It sounded like the Fourth of July around here,” Olson said.

Water advisories

Power problems caused a water shortage in Lakeshore Estates Rural Water District 10. The district was expected to run out of water sometime Wednesday. It will remain without water until electrical power can be restored to the water system.

People in the district were asked to conserve water. Residents might consider melting ice to use for toilets and purchasing bottled water for drinking until electrical service is restored, emergency officials said.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued a “boil water” advisory for the water district. Loss of water pressure can cause contaminants to enter the water system, KDHE said. Once water is restored, customers should boil the water for one minute before drinking or using for food preparation, KDHE said.

Power outages caused Oskaloosa public schools to remain closed today for the third consecutive day. And if power isn’t restored to McLouth schools, classes there will be canceled, too.

“Right now all I know, the school doesn’t have any power, and I don’t know when it is going to be back on,” McLouth Superintendent Jean Rush said Wednesday afternoon.