More than 452,000 in West Virginia without Power
As water trucks, generators and other forms of help rolled into heavily populated areas hit hard by the weekend storm, many West Virginians living in rural areas awaited help Monday in conditions that grew increasingly desperate.
A heat advisory was in effect from Noon to 7:00 PM for most of central and western West Virginia, and the southern coalfields.
Only one death has been linked to either the storm or the heat so far, said Terrance Lively, a spokesman for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. A person riding an all-terrain vehicle in the dark in Pleasants County struck a fallen tree about 1:00 AM Sunday.
Neither he nor State Police could immediately identify the victim or offer further details.
But among the more than 450,000 customers still without power was 85% of Lewis County, where emergency management spokesman James Gum said there was no help yet from either the National Guard or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Anyone on public water had service, Gum said, but many residents in outlying areas rely on wells and cisterns that won’t be functioning.
“People around here pretty well take care of themselves and their neighbors,“ and law enforcement are trying to do welfare checks, Gum said. But authorities are concerned about those who have no phone service and can’t call for help.
Although power was restored along U.S. 33 and in the county seat of Weston early Monday, the stores that were starting to open were throwing out spoiled food. So were residents in rural areas.
“They’re going to be running out of food today because they’ve already cooked up what they had,“ Gum said. “You’re looking at 60 hours into this, and no freezer is going to hold that long.“
In Braxton County, emergency services director Fred Thompson said the National Guard had arrived and started wellness checks after dividing the outlying areas into six sections.
About half the county was still without power, but the utilities had sent in nearly two dozen trucks, and the water and sewage treatment plants were working on generators.
Utility crews were working across the state to restore service to more than 452,000 customers, but many areas may not get power until later this week.
American Electric Power had more than 260,000 customers without power Monday, while Mon Power’s outage map showed 190,179 remained out of service.
Mon Power, a FirstEnergy subsidiary, said it had more than 1,000 contractors and crews on the job from Michigan, Florida, New York and Kentucky. The company said it had lost more than 50 transmission lines and 70 substations to the storm.
Potomac Edison said it expects all affected customers to have power later this week.
AEP said service won’t be restored to some customers until Saturday. Among those still in the dark were about 64,252 households in Kanawha County — the state’s largest. The Friday night storms damaged more than 50 AEP substations and downed numerous power lines and trees.
A television station in north-central West Virginia was knocked off the air Monday after its generator shut down. WBOY said it ran nearly 60 hours straight before failing and cutting off the transmitter. The Clarksburg station said a repair crew was on the way.
A traffic accident in Morgantown, meanwhile, knocked out phone lines to the Monongalia County’s emergency dispatch center. Director Mike Wolfe said the calls are being rerouted through Harrison County 911 and asked people to be patient with delays.
Wolfe says Frontier Communications was working to restore service.
Paul Bump, head of the Harrison County Bureau of Emergency Services, said water plants were back in operation Monday and gas stations were coming back on line. Still, police remained watchful.
“We had fisticuffs at gas lines on Saturday,“ Bump said. “It was a panic thing. I just kept telling people, ‘Would you guys please relax! ... That’s been the one disappointing thing in all this.“
Police are no longer posted across the street from gas stations, he said, “but they’re aware of it and monitoring it.“
President Barack Obama has issued a disaster declaration for West Virginia, and a state of emergency declared by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin remains in effect.
Lively said FEMA and National Guard crews were fanning out across the state to deliver water to communities and generators to critical facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, and water and sewage-treatment plants.
About 50 cooling stations and 20 shelters were open across the state to give those still without power some relief, and guard members were helping local law enforcement with welfare checks on the elderly.
“They are the most vulnerable,“ he said.
The state Department of Transportation said more than 70 secondary roads remained closed because of fallen trees or power lines but most major highways were open.
The West Virginia Courtesy Patrol extended its schedule to 21 hours a day to help motorists traveling interstates and the state’s corridor highways with fuel or other needs. The patrols will be on duty from Noon until 9:00 AM the following day for the duration of the state of emergency.