The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 6, 2012

Recovery efforts suffer setback

BECKLEY — Another deluge of rain, high winds and lightning Thursday afternoon set power restoration back approximately 30,000 customers in West Virginia, leaving more than 300,000 customers still in the dark across the state.

Phil Moye, spokesman for Appalachian Power, said Thursday’s storm created additional outages in its coverage area. Fayette County, for instance, went from 15,107 customers without electricity at 11:45 a.m. to 18,721 by 3 p.m.

Other counties, like Greenbrier, Nicholas and Wyoming, also show increases in APCO outages in smaller numbers.

Monongahela Power, which serves parts of Summers, Greenbrier and Monroe counties in addition to other areas across the state, has a total of 88,929 customers without power but around 40,000 of those have had their service disrupted in two additional storms after June 29, reported a spokesman.

Steve Lipscomb, director of Summers County Emergency Operations Center, said the afternoon storm created additional outages in the Bellpointe area of Hinton and the Jumping Branch area of Summers County. These are both sections of the county that had power restored briefly after the June 29 storm.

Moye also said a vehicle struck a pole on Harper Road in Beckley around 4:40 a.m. Thursday, blocking the roadway in the Harper Heights area and knocking out power for an additional 1,000 customers.

Ken Batty, meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Charleston, said preliminary data from the Raleigh County Airport measured wind gusts from Thursday’s storm at 46 miles-per-hour around 1 p.m.

And while most streams and river levels are low and the area is in need of rain, he said, the National Weather Service has received several reports of water standing in roadways from poor drainage systems.

Although the most recent storm was a setback, numbers of outages are decreasing every hour and additional line mechanics are being brought in daily.

Moye said Appalachian Power’s storm recovery team has increased an additional 25 percent from Wednesday to Thursday with 750 workers from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky.

“We have been able to bring in employees from areas that were not affected as dramatically as we were. This brings the restoration effort up to a workforce of 3,800, he said.

The additional line mechanics could make housing a difficult issue; however, local facilities are stepping up to house the additional crews.

Moye said additional workers are being housed at the University of Charleston, West Virginia State, the Brushfork Armory in Bluefield and Concord University.

“It is extremely helpful and a fantastic display of cooperation for these places to offer a place for our workers to stay and it frees up rooms in hotels for those in the area who do not have electricity,” he explained.

Restoration dates for Mon Power customers is Friday for the White Sulphur area of Greenbrier and the end of the weekend for Monroe residents.

Power should be restored Friday night to Mon customers in the Craigsville and Richwood areas of Nicholas County.

For Appalachian Power customers, Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Putnam and Summers counties have an expected restoration date of Friday night. Boone, Cabell, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan, Mason and Mingo are expected to have power by Saturday night. The remaining outages for Clay, Kanawha, Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, Roane and Wyoming counties are expected to be wrapped up by Sunday night.

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West Virginia American Water announced Thursday that it will donate $7,500 to the American Red Cross for disaster relief in West Virginia.

President Jeff McIntyre said the Red Cross has been working around the clock to provide crucial services.

“We are proud to support these life-sustaining efforts and to work together with the Red Cross and many different partners around the state during this challenging time,” he said.

Summers County Commission President Jerry Berry said staff from the John Cook Nursing Home in Hilldale received a back-up generator from the West Virginia National Guard after their generator appeared to be going out.

Suddenlink officials announced Thursday that its Beckley and Princeton stores will offer free Wi-Fi access during the current power outage crisis. This will allow residents to keep track of news and check e-mail while power remains out in their homes.

“Due to the power outages in the area, we felt this would be helpful to folks in order to have Internet access to contact relatives and friends,” said Michael Kelemen, director of Government Relations. “We know it’s a tough time for many of our customers, and we want to make it easy and free for them to keep in touch.”

The American Red Cross has already brought in 80 volunteers to supplement those already at work in the state and even more help is on the way.

According to a press release, 26 Emergency Response Vehicles are headed to West Virginia and can carry about 1,000 prepared meals and water.

Locations where residents in need can get a hot meal will be released soon.

Currently the Red Cross has five shelters open and is assisting with the operation of another 10.

The Red Cross shelters in The Register-Herald coverage area are First Church of God on Harvey Street in Fayetteville, Nicholas County Senior Center on Valentine Circle in Summersville, Richwood Food and Clothing Pantry in Cherry River Plaza in Richwood, and the Summersville Fire Department on Arbuckle Road in Summersville.

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