In the wake of a storm, hard work begins
Today I want to thank all the people who helped get life back to normal in the wake of two EF1 tornadoes that hit Lawrence County last Wednesday.
The tornadoes had a combined path of 22 miles and struck at exactly the same time, 5:56 p.m. One affected the Loretto-Leoma-Center Point area with a peak wind of 105 mph and a maximum width of 300 yards. Another hit the east side of Lawrenceburg, was clocked at 100 mph and was 100 yards wide.
We were extremely lucky. Despite significant damage to our main library branch and several homes, only one minor injury was reported.
The most widespread issue was downed trees and power lines. This in itself is a great danger, but Emergency Management Director Joe Baxter said the Lawrenceburg Fire Command and police quickly blocked off those dark and dangerous streets.
Officials who Baxter had been briefing throughout the afternoon gathered at the Emergency Operations Center to assess damages and determine where help was needed. The Red Cross was notified of possible sheltering needs, and a Rotary Park Gym was opened as a precautionary measure.
Lawrenceburg Utility Systems General Manager Vic Pusser said 3,700 were left without power, but LUS knew there were problems before the first customer called. New meters that transmit an immediate message when an outage occurs are installed at about half of Lawrence County’s homes and businesses. The goal is to have the county-wide changeover complete in the first quarter of 2021.
LUS crews were sent out in the storm to make sure none of the downed lines posed a danger. They then began the work of restoring power in a 96-hour marathon that brought a further deluge of rain and later, snow.
“Everybody was working,” Pusser said. “Engineers went out with our linemen to assess damage, to draw up pole replacements and repairs. Our right-of-way workers were clearing up trees, and we put our part-time meter readers out with them, too.
“We had our maintenance shop open to keep the trucks running, and our warehouse to supply parts. The crews were eating on the job, so our office staff helped with food and snacks. At one time we had five groups out delivering meals.” Several residents dropped by with food and LUS spouses contributed homemade treats as well.
Two contractors and crews from Pulaski Electric and Columbia Power & Water were part of the recovery. “I can just pick up the phone and they’ll come,” Pusser said. “And they know we’ll do the same for them.”
A total of 26 electric poles had to be replaced, and some employees logged 18-hour days. LUS has 30 linemen, who receive specialized training then begin a four-year apprenticeship to earn the title. I want to thank these men in particular for their hard work at a dangerous job.
City, county, and state workers helped with tree and debris removal, but work stopped Sunday at 7 p.m. “We stopped because more rain was moving in,” Pusser said. “We’re waiting for better weather to finish things up.”
Hopefully, that better weather will arrive soon.


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