— NOTE: A list of water and relief stations appears at the end of this article.
Appalachian Power Co. has shifted its estimate for full power restoration in Fayette County to Sunday. Over 20,000 county residents still were without power on Tuesday morning following a weather event Friday night that left nearly 20 dead and millions in 11 states from Indiana to the East Coast without power. The massive storm, known as a derecho, a straight-line windstorm associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms, stretched across the country for over 700 miles.
But despite widespread power and water outages, Fayette County communities are pulling together and weathering the after-storm together.
County officials and emergency services personnel sat down for a meeting on Monday morning in Fayetteville to assess needs and make workplans for the day.
“We’re all working in concert to make sure we get resources aligned with community needs,” Sen. Bill Laird told The Register-Herald, The Fayette Tribune’s sister newspaper. “That process seems to be progressing.”
Police cruisers were dispatched to spread public service announcements by megaphone up through the hills and hollows. Sheriff’s deputies used their own vehicles to deliver bottled water to communities in need. And local restaurant owners took to the streets to feed workers, residents and tourists alike from their fast-depleting food stores.
Residents’ worlds shrank when the power went out. In many cases, small clusters of households are checking in on each other in a neighborly fashion.
“For the most part, our citizenry is very accommodating,” says Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Carl Harris.
Steve Cruikshank, executive director of Fayette County Emergency Services, says his office is fielding fewer demands from more rural parts of the county where people may be more used to a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Wal-mart and CVS on U.S. 19 are open, but so are some smaller mom-and-pop operations like The Store in Beckwith, which always does well during power outages.
Operating on generators, owners Bernie and Brenda Sharp served up sliced deli meat, canned goods, and gas — at least for the four hours while it lasted — to their neighbors all weekend.
On Monday morning, a much-anticipated delivery of ice showed up, trucked in by Paul Dehart of Eastern Ice.
His welcome was kinder in Beckwith than over in Nettie, where a mob of residents swarmed his truck. He sold 116 bags of ice in 10 minutes.
“We’re trying to spread the ice out through the communities so everyone can have some,” he says. “We’re producing as much as we can.”
“We were very fortunate,” said Benny Filiaggi, deputy chief of the Montgomery Fire Department. “We did have some areas with damage, but mostly our guys helped clear roads for access.”
As in other areas, wind damage downed trees, pieces of storefronts and portions of buildings in the city and surrounding community. Part of a roof of the Oddfellows building collapsed and buried two cars on Ferry Street, although no one was injured.
The city continued with plans for its annual Fourth of July celebration on Wednesday, although both Gauley Bridge and Fayetteville were forced to cancel or alter plans.
According to John David, director of the Southern Appalachian Labor School, the school’s dormitory in Beards Fork has been operating as an emergency shelter for residents in the Loop Creek area affected by the storm and its aftermath.
Emergency power is being provided by propane generators. A water tanker is needed since PSD pumping has been interrupted.
On Monday, WVU Tech in Montgomery was closed due to the severe Friday storm. Employees were not required to report for work on Monday, either.
The WVU Tech Revitalization Academic Subcommittee meeting that was scheduled for Monday afternoon was postponed and will be held at a later date.
For more information on emergency campus closures: http://employeerelations.hr.wvu.edu/procedures/inclement_weather_and_emergency_closures
In Oak Hill, the Lewis Community Center served 231 free lunches on Sunday. Volunteers and police continue to offer a number of services there, in addition to three hot meals a day to anyone in need.
City Manager Bill Hannabass said Monday he believes food will become increasingly critical as the power outage continues.
The town’s sewer system is operating on generators fueled by diesel. So far, supplies have held out, but Hannabass says finding fuel has been the town’s biggest challenge.
“We scrounge it and we buy it,” says Hannabass.
Water outages caused some discomfort for Oak Hill residents over the weekend when a generator failed at a nearby water treatment facility. Some residents on Summerlee Road, Gatewood Road and Collinwood Acres are still without water, according to Hannabass.
“We dodged a bullet,” Hannabass said. “There’s nobody dead or injured that I know of.”
In Mount Hope, Mayor Michael Martin reported no critical needs on Monday morning, though the town was still waiting on a shipment of diesel promised by the Department of Transportation.
“We’re taking care of each other here,” he says. “Neighbors are looking out for neighbors.
“We’re not that many generations removed from our pioneer forebears. We are still pioneers.”
Martin reports that fuel is being stolen by “bandits” from generators and gas tanks in town, but police are on patrol.
“These situations bring out the worst in some people, and the best in others,” he says, urging residents to behave themselves and help each other.
The town has its own water system, which is running just fine on generators, says Martin.
In Fayetteville, municipal crews were working street by street “to get the town dug out,” according to Town Manager Bill Lanham.
Lanham himself was out with the crews, pitching in to restore normalcy to residents’ lives.
He advises them to look out for each other, conserve resources and avoid panic.
Danese and Meadow Bridge both have generators for their water facilities and so far have experienced no service interruptions.
County officials are working on setting up dump sites for spoiled food throughout the county. Authorities caution that food disposal can be a safety issue because it attracts animals. They urge people to be mindful of their disposal methods.
At this point, they say any perishable food should be discarded.
Cruikshank’s office is trying to document structural damage. He says a county needs more than $1 million in damages before the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will step in and cover damage to individuals’ homes. So far, Cruikshank does not think the county qualifies.
FEMA is currently covering damage to public facilities in West Virginia, with the money flowing through counties.
Fayette County residents with non-emergencies can contact the Office of Emergency Services at 304-574-3285.
The governor’s office moved Fayette County up on its priority list on Tuesday and spent the morning dealing with the post-storm situation here. Water, generators and diesel are still in high demand.
In Fayetteville, county and state officials met for three hours in an unfacilitated meeting that produced few decisions or action items.
Rep. Nick Rahall was present for the meeting and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin joined for a time via conference call.
“We understand the urgency of the situation and we’re going to push a lot more of those assets out today,” Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General told meeting attendees. “I apologize if we are not pushing resources out fast enough. We’re pushing as fast as we can.”
The state is shipping in ice from New Orleans, the closest facility with capacity to meet demand.
As of noon on Tuesday, generators were reportedly “on their way” to the three public service districts in Fayette County still without power, including one supplying water to Mount Olive Correctional Complex. There was no word on how long it would take to hook up the generators.
“Just bear with us and have some patience because we’re doing everything we can to get people back to normal,” Tomblin said at the meeting.
After sheriff’s deputies left mid-morning to distribute water to designated drop-off points in communities, bottled water was running in short supply. Two more tractor-trailers of water were reportedly on their way to the county.
“The priority right now is drinking water, not ice,” Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler told meeting attendees. “Whatever we have to do to get drinking water out, we will do. We can deliver it if it takes working around the clock.”
West Virginia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato told local authorities via conference call that his office is receiving shipments of water and trying to push them back out to counties as quickly as possible.
The West Virginia National Guard is sending health and welfare teams out door to door in remote communities to keep in contact with those who don’t have communication capabilities.
Volunteers are needed in Fayette County at cooling stations and shelters, particularly at Valley Elementary. Anyone who would like to help out should call Roseann Berry from the Fayette-Nicholas Red Cross at 304-469-4636.
The Red Cross is organizing a feeding station for Fayette and Nicholas counties, but a plan was not finalized as of Tuesday at noon. The organization may set up a few fixed feeding sites with deliveries fanning out from there.
An ugly rumor that Mount Olive’s security system generator was failing and the facility had run out of water was denied by Warden David Ballard. He reports that the prison still has bottled water and everything is running fine.
At Hidden Valley Nursing Home in Oak Hill, indoor temperatures reportedly climbed to 92 degrees on Monday due to insufficient generator capacity.
Approximately 25 homes sustained major damage in the county, to the point that they are unlivable.
The governor’s office is reportedly working with the State Banking Association to set up check cashing locations in Mount Hope and Fayetteville for those out of cash and gas.
Full power was restored to West Virginia American Water’s New River Water Treatment Plant around 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Officials expected all their customers to have normal water pressure within a few hours of the power restoration.
Water station locations operated by WVAW in Fayette County are at 129 Highland Avenue in Oak Hill (the outdoor water faucet) and at Plateau Medical Center (a portable water tanker) at 430 Main Street in Oak Hill. Customers must bring their own containers to fill.
A statewide boil water advisory is in effect for anyone who lost water, experienced low water pressure or saw cloudy water.
Authorities are having difficulty getting in touch with the companies that typically provide oxygen for area residents. The state is reportedly buying oxygen from companies that have it available, but oxygen tanks have been hard to obtain.
Residents on oxygen are advised to take their concentrators to cooling stations, where they can plug them in.
Fayetteville’s Heritage Festival activities are canceled until further notice.
For non-emergencies in Fayette County, call 304-574-3590 or 304-574-1610.
Over the weekend, Sen. Jay Rockefeller issued the following statement on the state of emergency in West Virginia: “I strongly encourage everyone to please be careful, stay hydrated and also conserve smartly, stay away from downed power lines, and check in on your family, friends, and neighbors. And if needed, please go to available shelters to avoid the dangerous heat. In the event of an emergency, call 911.
“I remember during my time as governor, touring areas of West Virginia following emergencies, including flooding. We quickly called for more emergency housing for families displaced from their homes. In addition to going to those shelters, West Virginians took it upon themselves to check in on friends and neighbors. This generosity and thoughtfulness is what makes West Virginians so great, and just as we did then, today we can work together and help each other get through this damage and heat, and stay safe.
“I already spoke with Gov. Tomblin and we are determined to bring every resource together to help the state recover. And my staff is actively engaged across the state and has been in touch with West Virginia’s electric and phone companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Guard, Red Cross, and shelters throughout the state to help assess damage and look for solutions. I remain committed to helping in any way I can until we recover.”
Said Sen. Joe Manchin on Saturday: “Last night’s storms caused severe damage and left hundreds of thousands of West Virginians without electricity in this extreme heat. I urge all West Virginians to be very careful, stay hydrated, and check on your neighbors — especially the elderly. I know the state will do all it can to care for those in need, and I will do everything in my power to make sure West Virginia gets any needed federal assistance very quickly.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Steve Keenan and Cheryl Keenan contributed to this story.)
-- Kanawha Falls PSD
-- Gauley Bridge Fire Department
-- Armstrong Creek Fire Department
-- Fayetteville Church of God
-- The Lewis Center in Oak Hill
-- Meadow Bridge Town Hall
-- Mount Hope Fire Department
-- Page/Kincaid PSD
-- Pax Volunteer Fire Department
-- Kimberly Elementary School
-- Valley Elementary School
-- Nuttall Volunteer Fire Department
-- Mt. Olive Baptist Church
-- Gauley River PSD
-- Southern Appalachian Labor School, Beards Fork — Full shelter offering water, food pantry, air conditioning
-- The Lewis Center in Oak Hill — Full shelter offering food, water, and sleeping accommodations
-- Fayetteville Church of God — Full shelter offering food, water, sleeping accommodations
-- Mount Hope Fire Department — Cooling station, food available sporadically
-- Rite Aid in Ansted — Cooling station, medication and water for sale from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mon-Sat
-- Valley High School — showers
-- Valley Elementary School — Cooling station
-- Meadow Bridge Town Hall — Cooling station