Kentucky Ice Storm Illustrates Anatomy of a Disaster

A winter weather warning for Kentucky had been issued, and all the horses were in the barn for the night as a precaution. After all, how often have the weather forecasters been overenthusiastic about "catastrophic" storms?

Overnight the electricity went out; both landline and cell phones were dead. Trees, limbs and telephone poles were down, blocking roads and causing major damage to buildings, vehicles, and equipment.

Throughout the state 760,000 electrical customers were without power; some counties had water supply issues due to the power outage and broken water lines. People could not communicate with first responders; emergency rescue teams were unable to respond due to blocked roads. People learned that satellite telephones or ham radios (both battery-powered) were the only means of communication.

The average temperature was 20° F, and ½ to 1 inch of ice glazed everything in sight, including the underlying snow. On several nights, the wind chill was below zero.

This was the situation in late January, with the western half of the state hardest hit. Fence lines were down because of fallen trees or power poles. Farms dependent on electrical pumps for well water had no water for livestock. Farmers with generators could get their water flowing again, but they didn't know for how long. First responders' priorities were primarily human health and safety, with animal health and safety and preservation of property running a distant second and third. Resources went to highly populated areas first.

Of the 120 Kentucky counties, 95 declared states of disaster, resulting in state and federal disaster declarations and qualifying the state for federal aid. More than 30 people in Kentucky died due to the storm; no firm data are yet available about the number of livestock and equine deaths and losses.

After one week, 300,000 electrical customers still had no power despite a tremendous response of electrical workers coming in from more than 20 surrounding states. In some areas, people were advised it would be three to four weeks before power could be restored.

A disaster can happen at any time and can last hours, days, or weeks.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

For information on a disaster plan for your family, go to For your horses, go to   

Contact: Dr. Roberta M. Dwyer; 859/257-4757; Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center; University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.
Dr. Melissa Newman; 859/257-5881; Department of Animal and Food Sciences; University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.

This is an excerpt from Equine Disease Quarterly, funded by underwriters at Lloyd's, London, brokers, and their Kentucky agents.

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Equine Disease Quarterly

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