The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 31, 2012

Fayette, Nicholas first responders handle aftermath

By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald

— Emergency officials — and residents and business owners throughout West Virginia — continued to grapple with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy on Tuesday. As the recovery commenced, the storm continued to deal more blows to the area.

As the day wore on, the numbers of those without power service continued to rise. In Fayette County for example, Appalachian Power Co. spokesman Phil Moye said the number of customers without power had risen from 10,690 as of 8:45 a.m. to 12,766 as of about 3:30 p.m. The number of state customers without service had mounted, as well, going from 90,000 to 155,000 in the same time span.

“We’re still in the storm, and the outage numbers are going up, as well,” said Moye. “They’re not heading in the direction we’d hoped.”

Moye said it’s too early to predict when service will be restored. “To put any timeline on it would be premature.”

The company was still in the process Tuesday of assessing where damage exists, and — while assessing its service area — it first must concentrate on restoring service at larger known outage areas and in situations involving critical infrastructure.

In Nicholas County, Carla Hennessey, the county’s director of emergency services/911, estimated 89 percent of the county — which is served by both Appalachian Power and First Energy — to be without power. As of about 1 p.m., snowfall had reached about 2 1/2 feet in Summersville, and she said it could reach 4 feet toward Nettie and Richwood by dark.

Tractor-trailers were backed up on U.S. 19, slowing travel through the area. Also, W.Va. 39 was down to one lane in most places, and W.Va. 41 was reduced to one lane due to a jackknifed tractor-trailer.

W.Va. 39 in Nicholas County was closed west of Summersville.

Shelters had been set up in two locales — the Summersville Senior Center and the Richwood Food and Clothing Pantry. Others could possibly open later.

Officials were in the process of obtaining generators for PSDs in Craigsville and Richwood.

Two residential structures had collapsed under the weight of the snow, Hennessey noted, but emergency responders had evacuated the residents prior to the collapse, and no injuries were reported.

Think about your reasoning before traveling, she stressed. “Heed the warnings. Please refrain unless you absolutely have to be out.”

Steve Cruikshank, deputy director of the Fayette County Office of Emergency Services, said earlier Tuesday that a shelter was being set up at the First Church of God in Fayetteville, and others are on stand-by.

The county has a National Guard liaison on hand, as well as a health and welfare team. Cruikshank said a request has been made for more personnel.

In addition to their regular duties, Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler and his deputies are available and “will do about anything,” Cruikshank said.

Anyone with non-emergency storm-related concerns can call the Fayette County OES at 304-574-1610 or 304-574-3285. If it’s an emergency, call 911.

Fayetteville Town Superintendent Bill Lanham said the First Church of God shelter is a warming shelter, and he thanks the church and volunteers for offering the service, as well as agreeing to house West Virginia Division of Forestry workers who plan on being in town to help cut trees felled by the storm. Lanham estimates three-fourths of the town is affected one way or another by downed trees.

“We’re now primarily working on keeping the streets cleared and plowed (of snow),” Lanham said. “Our crews are doing a marvelous job.”

Tree removal will occur when possible, and safety of the workers is “paramount” when accomplishing that chore.

The town was still without power as of mid-afternoon Tuesday.

As officials and employees continue the recovery, Lanham asked residents to “be patient and bear with us.” He also offered advice given by many others. “Please stay indoors if you can.”

Oak Hill City Manager Bill Hannabass says the city appears to have escaped major problems.

“Overall, Oak Hill was extremely lucky,” he said while driving around Tuesday afternoon assessing the damage. There were some isolated power outages, including Woodbridge Road along W.Va. 61, and workers had to clear some trees out of the roadways. Hannabass was unaware of any major structural damage.

One of the main problems was keeping ahead of snow removal efforts in the early stages of the storm, but the snow’s pace was simply too overwhelming for a while. “This morning the roads were really treacherous.”

Oak Hill has rescheduled Trick or Treat for Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m.

For more on Oak Hill’s storm situation, visit the Facebook page Oak Hill Info.

— E-mail: skeenan@register-herald.com