National Guard mobilized in Kentucky ice storm aftermath

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Kentucky's National Guard have been mobilized in the aftermath of what the governor called "the biggest natural disaster that this state has ever experienced".

An ice storm hit the U.S. state on Tuesday 27 January, bringing down power lines, freezing mains water supplies, bringing down trees and killing at least seven. More than 500,000 homes and business in the state remain without power, with utilities warning that it may take two weeks to restore supplies. State officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have been issuing generators to the most vulnerable.

The National Guard are visiting homes in Kentucky to check that residents are well. At Murray State University the campus lost power and the water was turned off to stop pipes bursting. Students were moved to shelters. The state of Tennessee was also affected, with 265 people staying in shelters.

States of emergency have been declared in 92 of Kentucky's 120 counties, leading Governor Steve Beshear to call FEMA for assistance. FEMA aid is available to states that have suffered for damages and extraordinary costs above $7.4 million.

Ice storms are caused when a layer of warm air is caught between two layers of cold air. Water in the frozen layer is melted by the warmer layer but is then reduced to below freezing by the second cold layer. It falls as water, but freezes on contact with the ground, power lines and trees, leading to a build up of ice.