WV Governor: “We’ve Lost a lot of Food”
As power outages persisted for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians and temperatures again climbed in the 90s Monday, freezers and refrigerators continued to thaw—sending thousands of pounds of food in trash cans and dumpsters.
The problem became ubiquitous Monday, three days after an unusual storm system knocked out power in 53 of the state’s 55 counties. Service remained out for about 380,000 customers statewide Monday night.
“They are losing their food. They’re having to dispose of it,“ Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said on special MetroNews coverage Monday night. “There is a lot of food that has been lost here.“
In supermarkets around the state, workers scrambled to save as much perishable inventory as possible.
Other groceries were not so lucky. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of milk has been poured down drains. Spoiled food was thrown out by the thousands of pounds.
Millions of pounds of food also likely went to waste in residential areas, where property owners have gone more than 72 hours without refrigeration.
“They have basically lost their food supply,“ Tomblin said.
The governor urged residents to donate food to cooling centers, fire departments and food kitchens to help feed those in need.
“We encourage everyone to give to local food banks and food kitchens to help people stock back up,“ he said.
Tomblin said the state Department of Agriculture is working with food banks and private businesses to provide food to those in need.
The heap of food and liquid now eventually for decomposition will have to be disposed of properly, Tomblin said. State agencies are working with county and municipal governments to ensure all food is discarded correctly, he said.
While food disposal showed no signs of slowing Monday, gas lines diminished as power returned to fuel stations around the state. Tomblin said many people “panicked” and iterated that no gas shortage exists.
“We have to reassure people there is not a shortage of gasoline; there is a shortage to pump the gas,“ he said.
Tomblin said the storms show West Virginia needs to find a better way to disseminate information during times of crisis. He said government agencies have “learned a lot” about how to handle emergencies.
Among the changes Tomblin wants to see is having generators equipped with wiring that would allow them to immediately hook up to nursing homes, sewer plants and other structures where power service must be restored immediately. He said re-wiring some generators to fit buildings has taken from several hours to days.
Residents wanting to donate food or other items should contact their local OES office.