CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Due to continued power outages and a limited number of operating gas stations after Friday's massive storms, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has asked non-essential state employees to not report to work Monday.
"We've made a great deal of progress, and we really urge that during this state of emergency [that] you don't travel unless you absolutely have to. Let emergency vehicles run while we continue to try to get the power back on," Tomblin said at a press conference at Yeager Airport Sunday evening. "We hate to have people out tying up the roads."
Only essential state employees such as those who provide services "relating to the health, safety and welfare of our citizens" are required to report to work Monday, in addition to those who are designated by their directors, according to a news release.
"A lot of this depends on which offices have electricity. Obviously, those people who work in emergency services and have around-the-clock jobs should be reporting," Tomblin said. "We thought it would be best that those individuals who are considered non-essential employees stay at home and knock on doors to check on neighbors."
State employees who are unsure if they should report to work can call 304-558-9117 or 888-558-9117.
The request will also free up roads for backup American Electric Power crews headed to West Virginia to help restore outages, Tomblin said.
AEP reported Sunday that West Virginia outages were down to 493,000, after an initial report of 688,000.
Tomblin urged residents to stay patient as power is restored, especially when dealing with gas stations that are unable to provide service without power.
"People are panicking when they see those lines [at gas stations]. I can assure everyone that we have an abundant supply of gasoline in the state -- the problem is we have no electricity. It's not a shortage -- it's just a matter of pumping it into the vehicles," he said. "Every time a section of power gets turned on, that opens another filling station."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has supplied West Virginia with generators, and some are still in route to locations, Tomblin said. FEMA and local businesses have also contributed truckloads of water for those in need.
West Virginia Adjutant General James Hoyer said personnel have been doing what they can to ensure the safety of residents without resources -- especially senior citizens.
"In many cases, this is based on the requirements and requests of emergency services. We have been out knocking door-to-door to make sure people are OK. Because we have such an elderly population in this state, sometimes you have to take that approach to make sure those folks are OK," Hoyer said. "The next piece is the logistics, and that's getting the FEMA equipment out to the counties that need it, and then assisting them from there."
Tomblin said that Friday's storms are not a typical disaster for West Virginia.
"We have not seen the kind of public property damage that we normally see during a flood, for example: bridges and floods washed out. There has been some damage to personal homes and automobiles -- things that are insurable," he said. "We have not seen the kind of major damage like we normally see. Once power gets back on, people will get back into their regular routines fairly quickly."
Also Sunday, Kanawha County school officials announced that the county's year-round schools, the central office on Elizabeth Street in Charleston and all other school-related programs are closed/canceled for Monday.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.