BOYD COUNTY, KY. (WKYT) – Repeated waves of winter storms claimed the lives of two lives in Boyd County this week after officials said they were without power and heat for too long. Power crews say blackouts in the area are not expected to be fully restored for another week, and the coroner fears more will die.
Boyd County Coroner Mark Hammond told WKYT that two elderly women died this week from hypothermia. He says these deaths are very rare in the region.
“It’s very rare. Even though we have a lot of homeless people, we have shelters. We have things where people are protected. “
Hammond says the issue is not just how long the outages have continued, but also where they are. Customers in the city of Ashland have been in the dark for days as these neighborhoods only last a few hours.
“Everyone thinks it happened in a rural part of the county and it didn’t happen in the town that hasn’t had electricity for four or five days.”
Hammond says that despite the long days without electricity or heat, some people just don’t want to leave their homes.
“People are reluctant to leave. They want to stay home … The problem is, a lot of people want to blame people. They want to blame the families. But what people need to understand is that the reason this is happening is that people don’t want to leave. They have different reasons. They think the current is coming quickly. They don’t want to leave their homes. They are afraid of losing everything, of breaking in.
Hammond says other reasons could include not wanting to leave pets behind, and sadly, many people don’t have families to watch them or keep them safe.
In Lexington, officials did not report any hypothermic deaths, but Lexington Fire Battalion Chief Jordan Saas said he made calls related to carbon monoxide poisoning. He says for those who use generators, they should be kept outside and at least 20 feet from doors and windows.
It also encourages preparation, including flashlights and batteries, but also extra layers of clothing. Saas says if you are staying at home you must dress like you are outside.
Hypothermia has visible symptoms. You will first feel chills. Hammond says it’s one of the first signs the body is trying to generate heat. Once the body temperature reaches 91 degrees, she stops shivering.
Other signs of hypothermia include slowed breathing, confusion, slurred speech, and drowsiness.
To treat someone with hypothermia, take them indoors or into a warm place. You should remove any wet clothing, cover the person with blankets and insulate the floor. Do not use direct heat or hot water on the patient. Saas says you want to slowly warm the person up and maybe start with a hot drink for them to sip.
In Boyd County, the National Guard has been deployed to go door to door to check people and get them to safety if they need it.
A heated shelter is also open at the Boyd County Convention & Arts Center.
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