Ice storm blankets county


A layer of ice blanketed Jackson County overnight Thursday leaving behind damage from fallen trees and limbs, significant power outages and school closings and delays.

Ice began falling shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday and continued early Thursday as temperatures stayed below freezing. The storm came 37 days before the winter solstice.

The ice weighed heavy on trees and power lines, causing trees to fall on vehicles, power lines and homes. At its peak, power outages totaled 1,445 between Duke Energy and Jackson County REMC customers throughout Jackson County.

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The first reports of outages by Duke customers were at 1:17 a.m. and affected 62 power locations, according to its outage map. Duke Energy had more than 100,000 customers without power across the state, but restored power to 57,000 by 3 p.m. Thursday, according to a press release.

The release, sent by Community Relations Manager Chip Orben, said freezing rain causes more damage to our electrical system than any other form of precipitation because limbs fall on power lines.

Jackson County REMC serves 24,466 customers in 10 counties in the area, and many of the outages were reported in Jennings and Washington counties. At one time late Wednesday or early Thursday, the provider had more than 3,100 customers without power, according to a press release. REMC’s service area also includes parts of Bartholomew, Brown, Jefferson, Lawrence, Scott, Clark and Monroe counties.

Ice caused problems because of its weight on limbs and lines, Duane Davis said, forcing the power outages just as ice started melting.

Davis, director of the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, estimated some areas of Jackson County received between a tenth and two tenths of an inch of ice.

“Depends on where you’re at,” he said. “That’s a pretty significant amount of ice because anything above a tenth of an inch can drastically affect power lines and large trees.”

Davis said it takes much less ice than snow to cause outages.

“Wet snow can be heavy, but it takes so much more,” he said.

He said the county treated roads and it made a difference for motorists, but the weight of the ice caused many trees to fall in roadways unexpectedly.

Brownstown resident Paul Borden encountered one of those trees as he was driving on County Road 25N near Lake and Forest and found one direction of the road was closed by a downed tree. He stopped to tell a motorist the road was closed.

The woman needed help finding an alternate route back to U.S. 50 and Borden pulled over to let her follow him.

As Borden waited for her to turn around, a tree fell on his Ford F-150 on the roof and hood of the truck.

“I heard the tree break and I couldn’t tell if I needed to go back, forward or anything, so I just scrunched down in the seat,” he said. “I was lucky.”

Borden said the limb that fell on the roof was about the circumference of a basketball.

“I was lucky I wasn’t 10 inches to the left where that limb fell on top of the roof because it would have hit me in the head,” he said. “The top of the truck was smashed down and another limb crushed the hood; it’s probably totaled.”

Sheriff Mike Carothers said police were busy with several wrecks and reports of debris throughout the morning.

“We’ve responded to motorist assists, trees down on the road and trees over power lines,” he said.

Carothers said Thursday was a good time to remind people to take their time when conditions are not favorable or avoid leaving their home if at all possible.

“If you don’t have to be out, just stay home where it’s warm and where you’re safe,” he said.

The police station on State Road 250 just east of Brownstown was affected by power outages too, Carothers said, but were quickly back in service because of generators.

Schools in Brownstown, Crothersville, Medora and Seymour all closed Thursday. Some other schools observed two-hour delays.

Davis said it’s the time of year for residents to begin planning ahead for winter weather.

“This is just the beginning,” he said.

Davis suggested residents keep cellphones and other important electronics charged to received updates and consider outages will prevent residents from being able to prepare certain foods and limit sources of heat for homes.

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