By C.V. Moore
OAK HILL —
In Fayette County, a major transmission line coming across Gauley Mountain is down, leaving 11,594 people without power. Some are now seeking relief from the effects of superstorm Sandy at one of two designated shelters in the county.
At the Fayetteville Church of God Wednesday morning, volunteers brewed coffee and busted out boxes of doughnuts as the emergency shelter’s residents began to stir from their cots.
For some, including Oak Hill resident Delores Thorton, it will be their second stay at an emergency shelter this year. Fierce storm winds this summer, and now feet of snow, have driven county residents out of their homes for lack of electricity.
“I’m glad they have the place open,” says Thorton. “It’s a big help for people who, through circumstances they can’t control, need a place to stay.”
Shelters are open at the Fayetteville Church of God at 114 Harvey St. and at the old Gauley Bridge High School.
In Fayetteville, meals, showers and overnight stays are on offer for those experiencing emergencies. Breakfast is served at 9 a.m., lunch at noon and dinner at 5 p.m. Eight people stayed overnight Wednesday, says Red Cross volunteer Saundie Smith.
A $200 donation by Fayetteville Baptist Church allowed the shelter to buy food on Tuesday. They can use more food donations.
The Gauley Bridge shelter is offering overnight stays and showers. Affected residents are asked to bring their own food to prepare at the shelter.
The Fayette County Office of Emergency Services is attempting to secure an emergency generator for the Ansted Baptist Church so they can cook food for residents.
“We’re just kind of holding our own,” says Ansted Mayor Pete Hobbs of Wednesday’s outlook. “Everybody is looking after their neighbors.”
His office hasn’t received many calls for help, but he expects they will pick up today when people start losing food in their freezers.
Appalachian Power is estimating that it will have its Hico station, which feeds Fayette County, back up and running by late Friday night. Restoration may take longer for people in isolated areas.
Areas in Fayette without power currently include the county seat of Fayetteville, along with almost everywhere north of the New River. Parts of Meadow Bridge, as well as the area from Smithers to Montgomery, had power as of Wednesday afternoon.
“Ongoing inclement weather continues to make assessing our electrical facilities very difficult, especially our transmission systems,” says Appalachian Power spokesperson Phil Moye.
“Appalachian is dealing with significant transmission damage, which is typically assessed by helicopter. However, crews are having to assess damage by four-wheel-drive and ATV vehicles, and even by foot patrol in the most remote, mountainous regions of our territory until it is safe to fly a helicopter.”
In Ansted, Mayor Hobbs drove a box of honey buns to power company employees working to restore service to the area.
“There’s no place in town to buy anything and these guys are from out of town, so you kind of feel sorry for them,” he says.
With half of Fayette County schools still without power on Wednesday evening, the county has closed school for today.
“We’re struggling to get out information because our offices have no Internet capabilities,” says Gary Hough, the county’s transportation director.
So far, none of Friday night’s football games have been canceled.
“We’re kind of playing it day by day, and just have hopes and prayers that by (today) we will have power restored,” says Hough.
“We’re trying to make sure that the safety of students is the top priority. At the same time we are aware that we are in the middle of sectional volleyball and football playoffs.”
Meteorologists are calling for a gradual warm-up Friday, ahead of another system that will bring rain this weekend. Flooding is a concern, says Fayette County Office of Emergency Services Director Theresa White.
“With the expected snow melt and high water content in the snow, they are expecting some possible flood warnings,” she says.
“We are asking people to make sure that, once the snow starts to melt and they start to clear out their properties, that they clear out the culverts so the drainage can run freely to the proper areas.”
Main roads are clear in Fayette County, but secondary roads are still a challenge.
Massive snow drifts on Backus Mountain and in the Danese and Cavendish areas have made travel difficult for residents.
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department is doing “mercy runs” to shelters for those with immediate needs. Call 304-574-1610 for assistance.
“If we can at least get through to the secondary roads, that would help alleviate some of the stress and burden on the sheriff’s department and guard assets that we do have,” says White. “It’s a lot on them. They also have emergency calls to run, too.”
Some roads in Fayette County, including Cunard, were closed due to debris, fallen trees and downed power lines.
The Kanawha Falls Public Service District and the Gauley River PSD are both requesting generators to run their water plants due to the extended power outage.
West Virginia American Water’s New River plant in Fayetteville has been running on a generator since the interruption.
Early voting is suspended in Fayette County, except for Montgomery, where 15 cast their ballots on Wednesday.
“We’re hopeful to resume operation (in Fayetteville and Danese) as soon as power can be restored,” says County Clerk Kelvin Holliday. “There are a lot of election deadlines upon us.”
This afternoon, Holliday and his staff will carry down ballots and other necessary election supplies from the courthouse, regardless of whether there is power. The supplies need to be distributed before the Nov. 6 election.
So far, 1,710 early voters — 1,174 Democrat, 375 Republican, 150 no party, and 11 independent — have cast their ballots in the county. An additional 278 ballots have also been filed.
If power is restored in Fayetteville by this evening, town council will meet at its usual time of 6 p.m.
Trick or treat in Fayetteville was suspended, with no make-up time yet announced.
Ansted and Oak Hill will hold their trick or treat on Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. Gauley Bridge and Montgomery will hold theirs from 6 to 8 p.m. today. In Smithers, activities will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today.
The Fayetteville Arts Coalition is postponing its Friday night event until Dec. 7.
The American Red Cross’s 19th Annual Christmas Festival & Craft Show is still a go for this Saturday.
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