Wanda English Burnett - Editor
Tree limbs and wires encased in
ice took on a beautiful luster as the sun began to shine on
Wednesday morning in the area. The beauty of the ice is mostly
confined to those who do not have to get out and were not affected
by loss of power or didnt have a tree fall from the heavy
weight of it.
The entire county was blanketed with ice followed by snow Tuesday
night into Wednesday morning and for the second time in as many
weeks, the commissioners declared Ripley County under a Level
Two Snow Emergency.
By 6:30 p.m. Tuesday a Level One Snow Emergency had been declared
due mostly to the ice causing trees and tree limbs to fall into
roadways making travel hazardous, according to Commissioner
President Robert Reiners. There were several downed power lines,
and crews, along with fire departments and police, worked throughout
the day and night. In a stretch of roadway on US 50 at the southern
end of the county there were three state police cruisers within
two miles alerting motorists of downs trees in the roadway.
Although Ben Sieverding, an instructor for the new Fire &
Emergency Services program at the Southeastern Career Center,
was not teaching school due to the weather, he was on the job.
Well probably be out all night, he noted late
Tuesday evening as he, along with many others from the Versailles
Volunteer Fire Department, worked in the icy conditions.
Firemen across the county were out in force removing trees from
power lines and roadways.
Ripley County Sheriff Tom Grills noted that his office was busy
throughout the ordeal. Weve had several slide-offs,
nothing serious, he noted on Wednesday morning. He said
a Level Two emergency means stay home. If youre
in one of the categories that have to be out (see related article)
Sheriff Grills said, Be careful and use good judgment.
He said he was out into the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday
and didnt have electric at his home near Batesville. Our
house was 38 degrees, he commented.
Television stations for the tri-state area reported that 73,000
homes were without electric still on Wednesday morning. Barry
Lauber, Director of Office Services for Southeastern Indiana
REMC said power outages were widespread in the seven county
area REMC serves including Ripley. Crews have been working throughout
the night with re-enforcements coming in on Wednesday morning.
This may be the worst weve seen it, Lauber
noted, referring to the icy conditions that snapped numerous
trees and downed hundreds of power lines throughout the county.
On Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. there was still about a third
of REMCs customers without power.
Lauber noted that the restoration effort was difficult with
the weather conditions on Tuesday evening. The safety
of our crews was another issue, he noted. Crews
reported hearing the trees snapping all around them as they
worked, he said. About the time they thought they were
making progress, the wind kicked up and we lost ground,
Lauber told The Versailles Republican.
We truly appreciate the assistance of law enforcement,
fire departments and all of the 911 communication centers,
Lauber said. People dont quit working when theres
an emergency, he continued. The power lines have the potential
to be carrying high voltage that would be fatal if touched.
Lauber said police and firemen stayed in the areas where the
lines were down until their (REMC) crews could get there. Sometimes
they had a long wait, he said.
To report power outages in Decatur County you can call 1-800-844-7362
or in Ripley County 1-800-737-4111 or 689-4111. We had
people manning the phones all night (Tuesday), noted Lauber.
DukeEnergy (formerly PSI) had crews working throughout the storm
and have called for backup (120 crews) from the Carolinas.
County and state highway departments have kept busy throughout
the winter storm clearing roadways and spreading salt and cinders.
They have a lot of road to cover, but have been working around
the clock to clean the roads as much as possible.
Ripley County Emergency Management Agency's Director Wayne Peace
noted that his agency's emergency plan was initaited with 12
shelters set up across the county Tuesday evening. He said they
give that information to the local radio station (WRBI 103.9)
and then it's usually word of mouth to let people know. You
can always call the EMA office at 689-0505 and someone will
get back to you.
Peace noted with the cold temperatures, they want to make sure
everyone is safe. EMA stays in constant contact with Homeland
Security throughout events such as this major ice storm. "Everyone
has a job to do and they do it," he commented. He said
the 911 dispatchers were taking multiple calls Tuesday night
and were "great to work with." He also said the ham
radio operators are a great asset in inclement weather conditions.
There are shelters available for those without electricity.
Just call the above number or the dispatch center at 689-5555.
"This county really comes together when something like
this happens," Peace concluded.
With wind chill factors well below zero, emergency workers are
concerned with residents trying to stay warm. Tuesday night
the Red Cross Office on the square in Versailles was opened
and three people stayed there. Area fire departments were open
as well. If you have an emergency and need help you can listen
to WRBI Radio for information on 103.9 or contact the sheriffs
office by calling 689-5555 (24 hours a day) or 689-5558 during
business hours Monday through Friday. You can call the Ripley
County Chapter of the Red Cross at 689-6308. Sandy Vanderbur,
director of the Ripley County chapter noted they will get shelter
for those without electricity. A shelter was set up initially
at the Batesville United Methodist Church. Of course, you can
always call 911 in an emergency.
Several industries and businesses, including doctors and dentists
offices, were closed on Tuesday night and all schools were closed
on both Tuesday and Wednesday in the county, due to weather
Jerry Gilpin of Versailles noted on Tuesday evening he believed
this was the worst ice storm to hit Ripley County. This
is comparable or maybe worse than ones we used to get when I
lived in Michigan, he noted. Several pine trees at the
Gilpin home off Tanglewood Road in Versailles were damaged from
the heavy ice.