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Large West Virginia Coal Mine with 400 Workers Closing

The Free Press WV

A West Virginia coal mine that employs about 400 workers is closing after a deal to sell it fell through.

Governor Jim Justice issued a statement saying the closing of the Pinnacle Mine in Wyoming County will displace a lot of miners.

He says he is hopeful the mine “has not seen its last days.“

WVVA reports workers at the mine, which is owned by Mission Coal, said this week negotiations to sell the mine fell through.

The mine is largest employer in Wyoming County after the school system. Workers were moving equipment out of the mine this week, a sure sign of its imminent closure.

Justice also mentioned the recent closing of ABB control systems in Greenbrier County, which employs about 150 workers.

Justice said in the Friday release that “it’s not a good day.“

Governor Justice Announces Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victim Assistance Grant Awards

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice announced today that he has awarded $10,362,932.00 in Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victim Assistance program funds to eighty-one (81) public and private non-profit agencies throughout the State.

“We need to help these victims of violent crime in every way we possibly can,“ said Gov. Justice. “We thank the U.S. Department of Justice and the Trump Administration for providing this funding to assist more than 80 non-profit agencies in West Virginia that are dedicated to helping our citizens, that have been victims of terrible criminal acts, as they recover.“

The Victims of Crime Act Victim Assistance funds will provide direct services, such as counseling, personal advocacy, court advocacy, client transportation and support services to victims of crimes including domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, and elderly abuse.  The funds will also finance assistance to victims as they move through the criminal justice system.

These funds are provided by the U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, and are administered by the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services (DJCS).

Blennerhassett Island’s Mansion by Candlelight Tours Return October 12 and 13

The Free Press WV

For two nights in October, visitors to Blennerhassett Island can experience the flame-lit world of 1805 and attend a period-accurate party during the park’s popular Mansion by Candlelight event.

On October 12-13, Blennerhassett Island will come alive at dusk with candlelight from hundreds of lanterns illuminating the graveled paths from the sternwheeler landing to the candlelit mansion. The event includes a re-enactment of a party hosted by the Blennerhassetts, whom the island is named after.

“If you’ve never attended the Mansion by Candlelight tour, then you’re missing out on a big part of Blennerhassett Island and it’s 18-century history and story,” said event coordinator Pam Salisbury.

Harman Blennerhassett, a wealthy Irish aristocrat, settled on the wilderness island in 1798 with his wife Margaret and completed construction of their mansion in 1800. The Candlelight tour is an opportunity to visit the island and see its exciting history brought to life. Rena and Bill Swearingen, local actors who will portray the Blennerhassetts, will join costumed re-enactors in greeting visitors. Music will be played on hammered dulcimers and other stringed instruments by the Valley Renaissance Consort Recorders. Guests can also expect dancing, a lively game of cards, strolling minstrels and more.

Also planned is a “servants’ party,” where guests can enjoy music, dancing, storytelling and homemade apple butter. There will be a picnic-style harvest supper prepared by island chefs at Harman’s Landing. Reservations are required and based on availability. Tickets are $15 per person. The island gift shop and concession stand also will be open each evening.

Tickets can be purchased at the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History at 2nd and Juliana streets in Parkersburg, or by calling 304-420-4800. Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for children 3-12. Tickets are limited and sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Transportation to the park is provided by the “Island Belle” Sternwheeler, which departs from Civitan Park in Belpre, Ohio.

Learn more about Blennerhassett Island Historical State park at www.blennerhassettislandstatepark.com.

Foliage continues to provide color show in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

Fall foliage is continuing to produce vibrant colors in West Virginia.

The state Tourism Office and Division of Forestry say trees in most areas are starting to turn.

It says trees in Canaan Valley are nearing peak color and trees at higher elevations in Greenbrier County are starting to show early color.

The agencies say the next two weekends will provide prime viewing in Blackwater Falls and Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.

In southeastern counties, higher elevations are showing some color with maples, birches, gums and poplars turning.

Oaks remain solid green. Lower elevations are just on the brink of turning.

The region should provide good fall foliage views during the next three weeks.

DOJ: More than $70M to support school safety and $64M to improve state criminal record systems

The Free Press WV

U.S. Attorney Bill Powell joined the Department of Justice in announcing more than $70 million in grant funding to bolster school security, educate and train students and faculty, and support law enforcement officers and first responders who arrive on the scene of a school violence incident, including $500,000 for the West Virginia Department of Education.

These grants are in addition to the funding to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), announced by Attorney General Sessions last week, to expand and update their curriculum to better support training programs. These grants combined will better protect students, teachers, faculty, and first responders across the United States. Additionally, the Department is awarding more than $64 million to state agencies to improve the completeness, quality, and accessibility of the nation’s criminal record systems, which will help law enforcement and increase the effectiveness of background checks.

“President Trump and his administration will ensure the safety of every American school,“ Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Earlier this year he signed into law the STOP School Violence Act, which provides grant funding to develop anonymous school threat reporting systems, to implement school building security measures, and to train students, school personnel, and law enforcement on how to prevent school violence. Today I am announcing $70 million in these grants to hundreds of cities and states across America. These grants will go a long way toward giving young people and their families both safety and peace of mind.”

“Children are our most valuable resource. This funding couldn’t go to a more worthy cause. I look forward to seeing our schools improve in security and mental health services in the coming year, thanks, in part, to this funding,” said Powell.

The Office of Justice Program’s (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) together are making more than 220 awards to jurisdictions across the country to help make schools more secure. The awards, granted through three funding streams, will provide new technology for reporting systems and other threat deterrent measures and create school safety training and education programs for school administrators, staff, students, and first responders. This includes the support for existing crisis intervention teams and the creation of new ones.

BJA’s STOP School Violence Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting Program will provide 68 awards valued at more than $19 million. This funding supports training to create and operate threat assessment and crisis intervention teams and to develop technology for local or regional anonymous reporting systems. This technology may be in the form of a mobile phone application, hotline, or website.

The STOP School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Program, also managed by BJA, will provide training and education on preventing violence and effectively responding to related mental health crises. This program will fund 85 awards at nearly $28 million. The WV Department of Education funding falls under this category.

The COPS Office School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) will provide nearly $25 million to 91 jurisdictions for school safety measures including coordination with law enforcement, training for law enforcement to prevent student violence against others and self, target hardening measures, and technology for expedited notification of law enforcement during an emergency.

The grants are authorized by the STOP School Violence Act, which are intended to improve school security by helping students and teachers reduce exposure to risks, prevent acts of violence, and quickly recognize and respond to violent attacks.

The Department also announced that it has awarded more than $64 million to state agencies to improve the completeness, quality, and accessibility of the nation’s criminal record systems. These grants are administered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of OJP. Approximately $43 million in funding will be administered through the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), and nearly $21 million will be awarded under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Act Record Improvement Program.  These grant programs help states automate and upgrade records accessed by the firearms background check system.  This year, at the direction of the Attorney General, the Department prioritized funding for projects that improve accessibility of criminal history records, domestic violence convictions, and information on persons who are prohibited from possessing firearms for mental-health related reasons.

The Department is also investing over $1 million in research to better understand the factors behind mass shooting incidents. The grant awards, made by the Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ), part of OJP, support scientific investigations that will examine factors that contribute to mass violence, identify any patterns in mass shootings, analyze psychological and social life histories of mass shooters and community-level predictors of mass violence, and will examine firearm purchasing patterns of known mass shooters in order to create a risk prediction tool. 

For addition information on today’s grant announcements, visit www.bja.gov or www.cops.usdoj.gov.

Three West Virginia Schools Receive National Blue Ribbon Honors

The Free Press WV

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today recognized three West Virginia schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2018. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

The state’s 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools are Allen T. Allison Elementary, Hancock County; East Lynn Elementary, Wayne County; Mount Lookout Elementary, Nicholas County.

“I’m pleased to celebrate with you as your school is named a National Blue Ribbon School,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a video message to the honorees. “We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives. Congratulations on your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”

“It is a privilege to have three National Blue Ribbon Schools in our state. The administrators, faculty and staff at these schools all share in this honor because it is a distinction which sets a very rigorous national standard to achieve,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine. “Schools across our state are working in very challenging climates to support students and advance learning. Earning this accomplishment is no small task, and I am very proud to have these elementary schools representing our state,” he said.

The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.

Now in its 36th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed recognition on more than 8,800 schools. On November 7 and 8, the Secretary and the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) will celebrate with all honorees at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

All schools are honored in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years.

Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year. The USDE invites National Blue Ribbon School nominations from the top education official in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. Private schools are nominated by The Council for American Private Education (CAPE).

West Virginia RN Board Reminds RNs to Renew Their Nursing License Online Before October 31st Deadlin

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses (WV RN Board) would like to remind registered nurses that the deadline for license renewals is October 31st. The way to complete license renewal is online at the WV RN Board site.  With just a few clicks, nurses can complete their renewal and submit their payment electronically.

Revamped for 2018, the new renewal process allows Registered Nurses to instantly renew their license to remain in compliance. Unlike past years where renewals did not show as fully renewed online until November 1, the new process will instantly update their renewal status on the verification site. For Registered Nurses needing to take additional steps after renewal, the online site also allows for monitoring of where their renewal is in the review process.

“We are happy to offer a streamlined service for our hard-working nurses in the state of West Virginia,” said Sue Painter, Executive Director. “Nurses perform invaluable work in our communities and it is our duty to do what we can to keep the communities safe and nurses’ jobs easier. They can complete their license renewal online from anywhere and save their time and effort.”

Through this change, Registered Nurses can now use a unified online system for their registered nurse and advance practice registered nurse license along with their prescriptive authority. Additionally, the online system will allow nurses to apply for advanced licenses, make changes to their existing licenses, and also apply for multistate privileges.

WV RN Board site also allows nurses to check their current license status and stay up-to-date on information pertaining to their licensing procedures and regulations.

The new online system was developed at no cost to West Virginia taxpayers and was created by the West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses in partnership with WV.gov.

Dog tracks down man wanted in Roane County truck theft

The Free Press WV

A Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department bloodhound helped chase down an Elkview man Wednesday morning wanted in connection with the theft of a truck in Roane County.

“Lucy did her job,” department spokesman Sgt. Brian Humphreys said. “She’s one of our two bloodhounds and she was fantastic. She did a wonderful job of picking up the scent and following it through the woods and right to that house.”

Humphreys said that’s where deputies found Joey Taylor, 25, of Elkview. He was found underneath the house on Turkey Fork Road in the Pinch area of Kanawha County.

He’s charged with possession of a stolen vehicle and grand larceny. It’s alleged he stole a truck in Roane County Tuesday. It was first spotted in the Elkview area Tuesday night by a Roane County deputy, Humphreys said.

“He (Taylor) started driving towards the deputy and he (deputy) fired a few rounds from his pistol into the truck. It then fled,” Humphreys said.

The truck was spotted Wednesday morning, parked on property near Boner Drive in Pinch. A Kanawha County deputy responded and saw Taylor in the edge of the woods. That’s when Lucy was called in.

“She even went through creeks, over a lot of hills and on many different paths but she kept with it and bee-line right toward him,” Humphreys said.

Taylor is the South Central Regional Jail.

Paramedics, EMTs needed at Lewis County EMS

The Free Press WV

The only emergency medical service in Lewis County needs some qualified paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

Ambulance Service Coordinator JT Taylor confirmed that as many as six new hires — four part-time and two full-time positions — are possibly needed to fill upcoming vacancies.

To fill shifts to cover the county around-the-clock, Taylor said current full-time employees will be able to apply for overtime.

“Most of the time we do get everything covered, but there are some days, we have to work short,” Taylor said. “It can’t be avoided sometimes.”

Lewis County EMS maintains mutual-aid agreements with surrounding counties, “so if the call volume gets overwhelming for us, we call whoever’s closest,” he added. “If it’s in the southern end of the county, we would call Braxton County to see if they could come up and help us. Or Upshur County from the east.”

A paramedic for eight years and employed through EMS for nearly 24 years, Taylor said part-time employees fill shifts until the end of October.

A few individuals who passed a 155-hour course for basic life support providers taught by Lewis County Emergency Squad Assistant Coordinator Joe Spray II through May have applied to work at Lewis County EMS, but others elected to apply closer to where they live.

“That’s why we have openings,” said Taylor, a Buckhannon resident.

Paramedic Keith Queen said the short staffing will allow current paramedics and EMTs to work more hours. For example, he worked three 24-hour shifts last week.

He said the shortage will be felt by the end of the week, when a group of paramedics will transfer to different departments.

A pair of two-person full-time Advanced Life Support crews currently operate per shift, Queen said. A crew consists of a paramedic and an EMT.

A full-time paramedic and part of Lewis County EMS for two years, Queen has been a certified EMT since 1993.

“I just like taking care of people, doing what I can for them,” Queen said.

Queen, who also was a paramedic with Upshur County EMS for 25 years, was part of the Buckhannon Fire Department for 32 years starting in 1974.

But Lewis County EMS is not the only department affected by staff shortages, according to Taylor.

“You are not seeing many providers get into this field,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to get reimbursed, and there have been some squads down in Southern West Virginia that have closed their doors because of funding. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements are low.

“They’re currently trying to raise those, but in the last 17 years, Medicare and Medicaid have not given EMS in the state a raise on reimbursement for an ambulance transport.”

There are two classes underway at the Parsons Volunteer Fire Department (in Tucker County) and another at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy in Morgantown that will conclude in October and December, and Taylor hopes to draw applicants from there.

The last class at Lewis County EMS was in 2016.

A Bridgeport or Lewis County paramedic for 19 years and an EMT for three, Spray said participants at the February class were not required to be an existing emergency medical responder (who are not permitted to transport patients via an ambulance).

At the conclusion of the course, students had to pass the practical skills evaluations and take the West Virginia State EMT initial certification exam and/or the NREMT (National Registry of EMT’s) exam — which are computer-based and are facilitated at several locations throughout the state.

There are more than a dozen rostered EMTs and eight paramedics, either full-time or part-time, at Lewis County EMS.

Taylor is accepting resumes by email at or possible applicants can take their resume to the EMS base from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at 155 W 2nd St. in Weston.

~~  Jonathan Weaver ~~

Unemployment numbers slightly less bad in August

The Free Press WV


West Virginia’s unemployment rate declined by one-tenth of a point in August to 5.3 percent.

The number of unemployed residents fell 800 individuals to 41,300. Total unemployment, however, is up 800 people compared to August 2017.

The biggest month-to-month gains were 500 positions in trade, transportation and utilities and 300 in manufacturing, while 400 positions were lost in mining and logging.

The national unemployment rate is 3.9 percent.

House Democratic Leaders Criticize Secretary of State Mac Warner’s Wasteful Spending

The Free Press WV

When Secretary of State Mac Warner took office in January 2017, he fired 16 employees, claiming that the firings were necessary to streamline the Secretary of State’s Office.

“Secretary Warner tried to claim that these firings were to make the office more efficient, but these firings were clearly partisan, as 15 of the 16 were registered Democrats,” House Minority Whip Mike Caputo (D-Marion) stated.  “He replaced these 15 people with 22 new employees- and most of the new employees were partisan Republican hires or connected with right-wing groups,” he added.  “That math doesn’t add up.”

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that four former employees who filed wrongful termination lawsuits against Secretary Warner have settled for a total of nearly $1 million.  There are still eight wrongful termination lawsuits pending from former staff of the Secretary of State’s Office.

Delegate Mick Bates (D-Raleigh) stated that Secretary Warner testified before the House Finance Committee during the 2018 Regular Session that he was staying within his office’s budget.  However, according to the state’s transparency website, in just his first year in office, Secretary Warner has spent nearly three million dollars over the previous year’s budget- an 180% increase in spending in one year.  “Republicans in the House of Delegates are pursuing impeachment of all Supreme Court justices for gross maladministration related to excessive spending yet turn a blind eye to one of their own,” Delegate Bates stated.

“This is unacceptable. If Republicans are serious about impeaching elected officials for gross misconduct in office, they should be looking at Secretary of State Mac Warner,” Andrew Robinson (D-Kanawha) stated.

“The illegal and unfair firings by Secretary Warner should come as no surprise, since the GOP continues to attack state employees, teachers and service personnel,” Delegate Caputo added.  “Apparently, experience just doesn’t count as much as being on the right side of the political aisle.”

WVDOH to permit development projects on state right of way at no cost

The Free Press WV


Governor Jim Justice announced today that the Federal Highway Administration has verified that federal law allows the West Virginia Division of Highways to permit broadband expansion and other development projects on state right of way without collecting a fee.

“This is a major step forward as we expand West Virginia’s broadband network to better serve our state’s businesses and citizens,” Governor Justice said.

All Dig Once permit requests are now being processed by DOH utility managers in accordance with state law (HB 4447) that was passed earlier this year. The DOH and Broadband Enhancement Council are currently working together to finalize development of standard forms, procedures and right of way access agreements that will be implemented under the new Dig Once Policy.

“As we continue to grow our economy the expansion of the information highway and our broadband system is critical,” Governor Justice added. “We’re extremely pleased that we’ve been able to get this verified by the FHWA and we’re working as quickly as possible to assist our broadband providers with their development efforts.”

Doddridge County fire department closed due to poor equipment

The Free Press WV

The McClellan District Volunteer Fire Department shut down on Monday because of what was described in a statement as “defective and out-of-date equipment.”

The West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office identified the issues in an investigation, which came from a complaint to the agency.

The Smithburg, Shirley and Salem volunteer fire departments will serve Center Point residents until restructuring of the McClellan District department is complete and the issues are corrected.

Governor Justice provides update on State of Preparedness for Hurricane Florence

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice is providing the following information as an update on the State of Preparedness for Hurricane Florence.

“We have mobilized multiple state agencies in preparation for the impacts on West Virginia from Hurricane Florence,” Governor Justice said. “We want to ensure that we are ready to respond to our citizens as quickly as possible when this storm hits and in its aftermath.”
The following is a rundown of the preparation and planning from each agency:

 

WEST VIRGINIA NATIONAL GUARD

  • 50 Guardsmen and women have been put into a duty status for preparation and staging at locations across the state.
  • At this time, the WVNG has dispatched 13 Soldiers from the Army Interagency Education and Training Center (AITEC) to locations in the path of Hurricane Florence. These Soldiers will serve as joint enabling teams (JET) deployed to the National Guard Coordination Center, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. JET members have advanced training in homeland defense and response and will serve as additional assets and liaisons for National Guard units’ requirements at the national level in coordination with the NGCC.
  • The WVNG’s swift water rescue team, a joint endeavor with Clendenin and Glasgow Volunteer Fire Departments, is on standby for staging and deployment depending on the tracking of the storm. 
  • At the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, 20 Air Guard personnel have been working hand-in-hand with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 3 to prepare a staging area for disaster relief supplies. Since yesterday, nearly 70 tractor-trailer loads of water, food, tents, cots, blankets and fuel arrived at the airbase where the supplies will await distribution as needed pending Hurricane Florence’s impact.
  • Communications checks within the WVNG and with our county emergency operations centers remains a top priority through the planning and preparation stage right now. County liaison kits are being prepared for deployment so that WVNG liaison officers can relay county needs to the state EOC as quickly as possible for response.

DEPARTMENT OF MILITARY AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC SAFETY (DMAPS)

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management:

  • Fully activated the new State Emergency Operations Center at 8 a.m. today
  • The SEOC hosts representatives of the array of government, non-profit volunteer and other response participants so they can closely communicate and coordinate.
  • The SEOC shares an operations room with the WV National Guard’s Joint Operations Center, allowing for side-by-side coordination and communication for the first time.
  • The SEC and JOC are new, and feature the latest in modern telecommunications capabilities.
  • Activated the web-based E-TEAM platform so state, county and local responders can submit, assess and fulfill requests for resources and provide information updates.
  • Launched a real-time situational awareness communications platform through the U.S. Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) for all response participants.
  • Hosting special National Weather Service briefings for county and local emergency managers at 2 p.m. daily.
  • Participating in daily conference calls with FEMA.
  • Communication channels have been tested and are ready.
  • iFlows rain gauges have been tested and are ready.
  • All DHSEM staff were placed on call Sunday in response to flooding from Hurricane Gordon and potential from Hurricane Florence. 

West Virginia State Police:

  • All detachment commanders are staying in contact with county and local emergency and 911 officers.
  • Limiting all leave requests unless previously approved to keep as many troopers in the field and on the road.
  • Monitoring for power outages and high water, particularly if in unexpected areas.
  • Emphasizing the “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” message. 

State Fire Marshal’s Office:

  • Deputy marshals with forward drive vehicles are on standby to assist.
  • Fire Marshals are available to inspect hospitals, schools and other public or essential buildings to check their safety and readiness if there is an event.
  • The Fire Marshal’s Office will help coordinate deployment of volunteer fire departments. 

West Virginia Intelligence/Fusion Center (WVI/FC):

  • The West Virginia Intelligence/Fusion Center (WVI/FC) personnel have begun receiving updates from partners regarding their preparations efforts for the hurricane and passing them along to the State Emergency Operations Center. Additionally, fusion center personnel are on standby in the event that an agency would request their assistance.
  • The WVI/FC is utilizing its Fusion Liaison Officer (FLO) Program. FLOs throughout the state send impact updates to the WVI/FC. The information is compiled into comprehensive reports, which are prepared for the West Virginia National Guard, West Virginia Office of Emergency Management, and the Governor’s Office.  The reports assist in determining the allocation of resources to communities; as well as providing a statewide impact overview to the Governor’s Office.
  • Additionally, Fusion Center personnel assist agencies in obtaining resources to aid their recovery efforts during a natural disaster.
  • The FLO program is intended for law enforcement, first responders, state and local agencies, and public/private sector entities throughout West Virginia to strengthen information sharing, enhance multi-jurisdiction partnerships, and to provide a platform for local representatives to share information related to homeland security and criminal threats, potential serious incidents, and natural disasters.
  • FLOs are the direct point of contact for the WVI/FC within their agency and/or community. There are currently 231 trained FLOs throughout the State of West Virginia.

 


DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES (DHHR)

  • The role of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Center for Threat Preparedness (CTP), directed under the State Health Officer of the Bureau for Public Health, facilitates advanced planning for local health departments and health care systems statewide to coordinate, prepare and respond to emergency events that impact public health.
  • During a crisis, the DHHR Health Command becomes an extension of the state Emergency Operations Center.  DHHR’s Health Command consists of subject matter experts within the Department who coordinate the overall health and medical response and access the needs of facilities (hospitals and nursing homes) for medical supplies, saline, water, oxygen, and medical and personal protective equipment.
  • In addition, CTP coordinates planning and deployment of state assets, when needed, such as mass care, behavioral health, environmental health, disease outbreak and investigation, mass causalities, and mass fatalities.

 

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

  • DEP is in direct contact with EPA Region 3 Administrator Cosmo Servidio about additional resources that are available for air monitoring, rapid needs assessment, sampling and analysis, assessments of drinking water facilities, and addressing threats from releases of hazardous materials and oil impacting navigable waterways that could impact the public welfare and/or the environment
  • More than 200 WVDEP field staff, including inspectors from Office of Oil and Gas, Division of Mining and Reclamation, and Environmental Enforcement, have been on heightened alert since Monday and have been instructed to inspect all existing control structures and areas of concern that need to be evaluated to address the need for any enhanced Best Management Practices (BMPs) or additional control measures. The goal is that issues are addressed before noncompliance occurs.
  • All field staff have been alerted to be ready to respond to reports of emergencies.
  • DEP Dam Safety has contacted all dam owners in West Virginia and is recommending that they inspect their dams prior to this weekend to make sure their dams are operating properly and do any preventive maintenance to make sure spillways are operating at full capacity. DEP Dam Safety is also asking dam owners to make sure all obstructions of flow are removed and trash racks are clean and in proper working condition and to make sure Monitoring and Emergency Action Plans (MEAP) are available and ready to be used if necessary.
  • DEP has reached out to regulated industries in an effort to develop a cooperative approach that can be taken to get collective efforts working together to ensure that any storm events result in the least adverse impact possible. WVDEP has been in communication with IOGA, West Virginia Coal Association, WVONGA, and West Virginia Manufacturers Association and asked they communicate with their members stressing the importance of cooperation.
  • Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline have both informed WVDEP that they have focused on enhancing Best Management Practices (BMPS), constructing sediment control structures, and moving equipment to higher ground.


DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

  • DOT has reached out to the Federal Highways Administration to put them on notice that we may have a need for their assistance should the damages warrant.
  • Provided a memorandum across Division of Highways easing weight restrictions for those vehicles transporting relief supplies.
  • Modified construction zones to open up as much of the roadways as possible and asked districts to be on alert for possible “trouble spots” in their areas, as it would pertain to traffic flowing freely.
  • Requested that the Courtesy Patrol to be extra vigilant for motorists who may be experiencing difficulties.
  • Provided a reminders list to all DOH districts of what needs to be done to prepare equipment/personnel for the storm that includes making sure that all emergency generators are operational, check inventory for chainsaws, chains, bars, etc., purchasing items if districts are low and making sure they’re ready to be used, making certain that every piece of equipment is fueled up and topped off.
  • Notifying all personnel that if an emergency occurs, they will be expected to answer their phones and report to work.
  • Touching base with emergency contractors to let them know that we may need them.
  • Checking routes and clearing any obvious potential problems like making sure limbs/debris are out of pipes and unplugging culverts.


DIVISION OF NATURAL RESOURCES

  • DNR personnel assigned to Dam Safety Compliance are reviewing and monitoring emergency action plans for all State Parks, Forests and Wildlife Management Areas.
  • Preemptively closed three locations for the safety of staff and patrons. Mountain Creek Lodge at Pipestem Resort State Park, Blennerhassett Island and East Shore Campground at Bluestone State Park will be closed until conditions return to normal. A heightened awareness and close monitoring of weather will determine the ongoing operation of the aerial trams at Pipestem Resort and Hawks Nest State Parks along with the scenic chair lift at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.
  • The most current status of State Park closures will be available in the central office and at the State Park reservations call center. 1-833-WVPARKS
  • State Park and Forest Superintendents are on heightened awareness of predictive weather conditions. and will be working or on call through the period monitoring the facilities and conditions. Field units and office staff have been provided with the most current State Parks Emergency Reporting Procedures. This includes standard preparations of supplies and equipment to assist in clearing roadways and utility rights-of way, preparations for loss of utilities and guest safety. Division central operations staff are on call and heightened alert during the storm period.
  • State Park and Forest Lodges, Cabins and Campgrounds are offering a 55% discount to evacuees through Tuesday. This will be evaluated Monday to determine the need to continue.
  • DNR Law Enforcement Section working with State OES and will provide emergency assets statewide, including boats, kayaks, rafts, ATV’s, UTVs, and 4WD vehicles. Additionally, Natural Resources Police Officers are stationed statewide and will be on duty around the clock throughout the event to provide emergency assistance as necessary, including security resources for flooded business and residential areas. All officers are equipped with interoperable radios for communication with all state agencies and are familiar with the terrain and topography of their counties of assignment to provide alternate routes in or out of potentially affected areas.
  • Wildlife Resources Section is monitoring the situation statewide and have staff on call and available to provide emergency services and resources including boats, ATV’s, UTV’s, tractors, 4WD vehicles, chainsaws and radios.

Governor Justice Issues Statement on Hurricane Florence Preparations

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice has directed the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM) and the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) to prepare for potential emergency situations in West Virginia due to the anticipated impacts of Hurricane Florence. The West Virginia National Guard will provide initial logistics support for FEMA efforts as the hurricane makes landfall.

Both WVDHSEM and the WVNG are monitoring weather reports and river gauges for potential impacts this week while working closely with other agencies at both the state and federal levels for planning, preparedness, and response purposes.

“All West Virginians need to prepare immediately for the potential impact Hurricane Florence may bring to the Mountain State,“ said Governor Jim Justice. “West Virginians should continue to monitor local weather forecasts, reports and information distributed by local emergency officials, news, and radio stations. And please, do not endanger yourselves, your loved ones or our first responders by trying to drive through flood waters!”

Currently, the WVNG is readying plans, personnel and equipment for possible deployment should conditions warrant. The West Virginia National Guard Swift Water Rescue Team, liaison officers for county emergency operations centers, flood response teams and other assets are being prepared in the event deployment is requested either in West Virginia or in surrounding states via Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) agreements.

Florence is expected to make landfall in the Carolinas late this week as a major hurricane. Areas of West Virginia including the Eastern Panhandle, Potomac Highlands, Mountain Lakes, and New River/Greenbrier Valley regions of the state may see significant rainfall from this system.

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