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High-speed winds whipped through Oldham County Tuesday night, snarling utility lines, uprooting trees, covering local roadways with tree limbs and causing a front-wall collapse on the second floor of Little Colonel Playhouse in Pewee Valley. Widespread power outages were reported throughout Oldham County. Early Wednesday morning, LG&E reported 25,000 customers were without power, mostly in St. Matthews and Prospect. Pewee Valley Mayor Bob Rogers said he was sitting in Town Hall Tuesday night when a transformer blew behind the building. Then he heard a portion of Little Colonel Playhouse topple onto Mount Mercy Drive. He said he thought the sound was a tornado. The front wall of the playhouse buckled as high-speed winds swept through Pewee Valley. A celebration to spotlight Pewee Valley’s “Little Colonel” legacy was planned Feb. 9 and 10, featuring a play at Little Colonel Playhouse, tours of historic homes, an exhibit and a luncheon. “It’s a sad time in the city for this to happen to the Little Colonel,” he said. At St. James Episcopal Church, participants in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting Tuedsay night rushed to the parking lot after they heard a loud “pop” outside. Terry Dunn said when he looked outside, he saw several vehicles underneath a large tree uprooted from the church lawn. Dunn said his sister borrowed his car to make a run to Wal-Mart while he attended the AA meeting. AA participant Calvin Greer wasn’t so lucky. He paced the sidewalk outside St. James, sneaking glances at his crushed 1990 Ford Mustang. “There’s my baby, sitting under a tree,” he said. Greer said he worries about finding a replacement for his vehicle, his pride and joy, but was more worried about finding transportation to work his 4:45 a.m. shift Wednesday at McDonalds. He joked at the irony of his car’s demise in a church parking lot. “Now they’re telling me the church isn’t liable because it’s an act of God,” he said. Rogers spent the early evening attempting to communicate with CSX after a train blocked railroad crossings throughout the city. Later, when the storm hit, he was drinking coffee with members of Pewee Valley’s road crew at Town Hall after his appearance on the 5:30 and 6 p.m. WHAS newscasts. Rogers said he’s trying to bring to light the issue that railroad companies face only a $25 fine for blocking a crossing for five minutes or more, while the hazard of blocked crossings could delay or prevent emergency crews from helping Pewee Valley residents. “What’s a $25 ticket to CSX?” he said. Less than three hours later after the newscasts aired, Rogers watched in disbelief as firefighters from the Pewee Valley Fire Department were forced to drive down Ky. 146 and access an open railroad crossing at Mount Mercy Drive rather than crossing at Central Avenue to respond to trees down outside St. Aloysius Church and the collapse at Little Colonel. A CSX train stopped on the tracks in Pewee Valley for nearly 90 minutes. Rogers said blocked crossings caused a headache for emergency crews as they found alternate routes to move through the city, but in some emergencies, a one-minute delay could mean life or death. “This is an example of what happens,” he said. “Thank God that no one up to this point has been injured – that we know about.” While firefighters secured the perimeter of Little Colonel Playhouse and responded to reports of downed utility lines, members of Pewee Valley’s road crew traveled through the city to clear roadways blocked by tree limbs. Pewee Valley Police Chief Mike Losik, stationed at Maple Avenue in front of St. James Episcopal Church where trees blocked the roadway, said road crews were working to clear trees blocking Central Avenue near Edgewood subdivision and a tree and downed utility lines blocked the 200 block of Rebel Drive. A few minutes later, chainsaws hummed as crews worked to remove limbs from Maple Avenue. City officials were also attempting to contact residents who rely on oxygen tanks and those with other special needs to confirm their safety. Officials recently began compiling a list of residents who could require special assistance during a power outage or emergency evacuation. Losik said Wednesday morning portions of Pewee Valley roads remain closed. Mount Mercy Drive from Muirs Lane to the other side of the railroad crossing at Central Avenue is closed and Central Avenue from the railroad crossing to Edgewood subdivision is closed as city officials wait for LG&E crews to repair utility lines tangled in trees. Losik said residents in those areas are without power, along with a few power outages on Maple Avenue. Rogers said he’s frustrated that CSX doesn’t notify Pewee Valley’s fire chief, police chief, the mayor or Oldham County dispatch when a train blocks crossings. “It’s time for state and federal government to step in and say to CSX, ‘You can’t do this,’” Rogers said.
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