By Steve Keenan
Emergency officials — and residents and business owners — throughout West Virginia continued to grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane 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 13,600 as of about 1 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.
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 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 to 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.”
In Ansted, Mayor Pete Hobbs said Monday local churches were ready, willing and able to activate a kitchen if necessary.
Emergency response officials responded to “all kinds of wrecks” overnight Monday and earlier Tuesday, as well as fallen trees and other storm-related incidents, Cruikshank said.
He was unaware of any injuries directly related to the storm, although some of the wrecks may have resulted in injuries.
While the roads have cleared somewhat but with possibly more bad weather to come, Cruikshank says, “(People) shouldn’t go out unless they’ve got a need. During the (summer) storm, we were really hampered by people (out on the roads) looking to see what they could see.”
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 Rte. 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, as the snow’s pace was overwhelming for a while. “This morning the roads were really treacherous.”
For more Oak Hill storm news, visit the Facebook page Oak Hill Info.
Besides the closure of county schools, a number of events were canceled or postponed earlier in the week because of the storm, including the Fayette County 4-H’s Trick or Treat for Canned Goods. The event now is set for Nov. 2 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Oak Hill has rescheduled Trick or Treat for Saturday, Nov. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m.
The National Park Service on Monday announced closure of all units of the New River Gorge National River until further notice. The NPS was concerned about the safety of trails and campgrounds where weakened tree systems from the derecho could create hazardous conditions.
(C.V. Moore contributed to this article.)
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