MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, it's Day to Day. Kentucky is still digging its way out of a massive winter storm that has crippled the state. Currently, more than half a million people are without power. It's the worst outage Kentucky has ever seen, and people will have to wait for weeks to get the electricity back. As families seek shelter, Governor Steve Beshear has called in his entire Army National Guard to move debris and rescue people trapped in their homes.
Erin Embry is the city clerk treasurer for Leitchfield, Kentucky, and she's on the line now. Now, Leitchfield is in a really rural part of Kentucky, and just describe what the obstacles have been in the recovery effort.
Ms. ERIN EMBRY (City Clerk Treasurer, Leitchfield, Kentucky): It's been extremely difficult to get to a lot of our residents. We have a lot of treacherous roads that aren't good in bad weather anyways, but the downed power lines and the trees have just been devastating. And the National Guard, this weekend, has really helped to clear those, and we've managed to get them all passable, but it's been a fight.
BRAND: And so, people - are they trapped in their homes with no power?
Ms. EMBRY: Well, since the roads are now passable, you know, we've worked hard to clear driveways and the roads. So everyone should be able to get out of their house at this point. But for several days there, yes, many were trapped in their homes.
BRAND: And when you do you expect everybody do have power?
Ms. EMBRY: We're probably three to four weeks from it. We're only at about 30 percent up and running, and we're, you know, we're taking a lot of baby steps and getting a lot of steps backwards to - just from the melting, and that's put a lot more power lines off.
BRAND: So three to four weeks, it is still freezing there...
Ms. EMBRY: Right.
BRAND: Or very, very cold where you are. So no heat, no light for three to four weeks for tens of thousands of people. What - how are they coping?
Ms. EMBRY: You know, here in our county, we've had a tremendous outpour of propane heaters. And, you know, we've got stuff coming in everyday, supplies for people that need it. I'd say right now, we're in a - most people are relocating to a neighbor's house, a friend's house, parents, siblings. Generators have been set up left and right, which causes a lot of problems as far as generator safety, and that - you know, we've lost two homes to fire already. And the more use of generators, you know, people really need to understand that they need to use them safely.
BRAND: So this seems to have really hit you and have hit you hard in a way that - do you wonder, maybe we could've been better prepared, or maybe we should have gotten more help from the federal government, or what kind of lessons are you learning for the future?
Ms. EMBRY: Absolutely. (Laughing) People definitely need to be more prepared next time. They need to have more water in their basement. They need to have more canned goods set aside. The biggest thing that we've noticed from a government level is our water plants probably need to have generators on hand. You know, we had a lot of problems with our generator. Our water supply was threatened many, many times because we couldn't keep our generators working.
Help coming in. You know, if we could have had it faster, it would've been great. But, you know, we know we weren't the only county affected, so it's just part of it.
BRAND: Right. So what is the feeling there in Leitchfield? Are people - how would you characterize their feeling about it? Are they angry?
Ms. EMBRY: The last couple of days, you know, I've seen a huge increase in morale in that, you know, with the National Guard coming in, with more utilities, trucks coming in from out of state, helping, people just seem to be, you know, coping much better. You know, they now know that they've got a neighbor that they can go take a shower at. (Laughing) So they feel a lot better. And, you know, we've been passing out food and water. And those families are, you know, clearly devastated, but I'm starting to see some uplift in the spirits.
BRAND: Erin Embry is the city clerk treasurer of Leitchfield, Kentucky. We've been talking about a massive ice storm that has hit Kentucky, more than half a million people in that state without power. And Ms. Embry, thank you very much.
Ms. EMBRY: Thank you.
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