MAYFIELD, Ky. — When the wind died down and the ice storm had passed, Joe Stutzman gathered his spare lanterns and stepped out of his Amish farmhouse to lend them to his modern-living neighbors.
“I feel sorry for my neighbors who were used to electricity and all of a sudden didn’t have it,” Stutzman said. “I know that must be hard for them.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in Kentucky have been without electricity for their lights, furnaces, ovens and refrigerators since the killer storm hit more than a week ago, and some spots might not get power back for weeks.
But Kentucky’s Amish have been living that way all their lives. And when the disaster struck, they generously lent a hand to their non-Amish neighbors and showed them how it’s done.
“Those folks are very good at sustaining themselves,” said Master Sgt. Paul Mouilleseaux, a National Guard spokesman.
The Stutzman family and the roughly 8,500 other Amish in the state were essentially unaffected by the storm that knocked out power to more than 1.3 million customers last week, about half of them in Kentucky.
Stutzman, his wife and their seven children were secure in their toasty, two-story home amid corn and soybean fields and swampy stands of cypress in western Kentucky.
“We paid it no attention,” Stutzman said Tuesday, relaxing in a handmade rocker as a wood stove across the room radiated heat on a windy morning with temperatures in the low 20s.
He grabbed a log, taken from a big pile out back, threw it on the fire and lit a kerosene lamp. The cellar was stocked with canned goods, the milk cow safe in the barn. Stutzman’s wife and two of their daughters used the wood-fired oven in the kitchen to do their baking.
Stutzman, a sturdy 40-year-old with a traditional Amish beard and a black-brimmed hat, said he would not have even known the storm was coming if one of his neighbors had not told him about the forecast. He is a member of the Old Order Amish, a sect that shuns modern conveniences such as radios and televisions.
James and Beverly Hutchins, a non-Amish couple who sheltered nine relatives in their home, said they don’t know what they would have done without the Amish family across the road from them, not far from the Stutzmans.
The neighbors brought over hot coffee every morning during the week the power was out, (“Best coffee I ever drank,” James Hutchins said), provided well water, cooked a meal for them, lent them a kerosene lantern and fixed the one lantern the Hutchinses had.
“Best neighbors we’ve ever had, and we’ve been around a few places,” 76-year-old James Hutchins said.