The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 30, 2012

Greenbrier County weathering the storm

LEWISBURG — Despite a night of high winds and at times heavy snowfall, Greenbrier County appeared this morning to be weathering the storm that has devastated the Eastern Seaboard.

As of 6:45 a.m., only one person seeking shelter from the storm had called a special telephone number the county established for emergency shelter inquiries, according to Al Whitaker, director of the Greenbrier County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (GCHSEMA).

He noted several power outages have been reported, including 1,283 households in the western end of the county with APCO service and 2,346 in the eastern portion of the county, primarily in Lewisburg, who get electricity from Mon Power.

By 2 p.m. the APCO number was reduced to 970 customers still in the dark, while First Energy’s website noted 657 out.

The Mon Power online map also showed about 168 Monroe County customers without electricity early this morning.

To view a Mon Power map of storm outages in West Virginia, go to outages.firstenergycorp.com/mdwv.html.

Whitaker said it was difficult to obtain an accurate estimate of the snowfall near Lewisburg, where he was already on duty early this morning at the 911 Center.

“It’s hard to measure due to blowing snow,” he said, adding, “Based on what I’m seeing at the 911 Center, I expect the western end got slammed.”

As much precipitation as Greenbrier County got overnight, however, Nicholas and Tucker counties appear to be the hardest hit areas, Whitaker said. And it’s not over yet.

“It looks like we’re still going to be dealing with (additional snowfall) well into tomorrow,” Whitaker said early this morning.

Asked if this summer’s derecho — a windstorm that felled trees all across the state — might have cleared out some trees that would otherwise be falling across power lines today, Whitaker said, “It may help a little bit, but it will hurt more than it helps. That storm weakened a lot of trees, and they’re more likely to fall or drop branches now.”

With a touch of irony, he pointed out that the current storm began Oct. 29, four months to the day after the June 29 derecho struck.

In other storm-related news:

n Public schools in Greenbrier and Monroe counties were closed Tuesday due to the weather, according to the state Education Department’s website. Also closed were Seneca Trail Christian Academy and Greenbrier Episcopal School.

n The offices of Greenbrier County’s Circuit Court, Magistrate Court, Family Court and their respective clerks, along with probation offices, were closed Tuesday by order of 11th Circuit Chief Judge Joseph C. Pomponio Jr.

According to information posted on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals’ website, the time off given to court staff during an emergency is not considered annual or sick leave. Magistrates are on a holiday/weekend schedule during the closure.

Due to the localized power outage in Lewisburg, all offices in the Greenbrier County Courthouse were closed Tuesday, according to an announcement issued shortly after 10 a.m. Thanks to generator power, however, early voting is proceeding at the courthouse as scheduled.

Courts and the courthouse in Monroe County are expected to be open today.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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