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20,000 lose power in Thursday storm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 20,000 additional Appalachian Power customers lost their electricity as a midday thunderstorm rolled through the Kanawha Valley and down through the Southern West Virginia coalfields on Thursday.

"We were looking out the window and going, 'Oh, no, not again,' said Phil Moye, spokesman for Appalachian Power.

Just before noon, wind gusts up to 59 miles per hour were recorded at Yeager Airport, according to Ken Batty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Thursday's storm damage added to the hundreds of thousands of customers still facing temperatures of near 100 degrees with no electricity since last Friday's derecho windstorm.

Around 5 p.m. Thursday, more than 157,000 Appalachian Power customers in West Virginia - about 36 percent of the company's state customers - had no power, according to the company's website.

Moye said power company officials planned to assess Thursday's storm damage and see if a statewide scheduled restoration date of Sunday would be pushed back. However, he said, because of additional help from other states, restoration plans might not change.

"It's a setback, but we're getting more resources in here. Today, we probably have 750 more [workers] than we had yesterday, and we're hoping for even more tomorrow," Moye said. "We're still hoping that can help us get to where we need to be by Sunday night."

Kanawha County had about 40,000 customers without power Thursday morning, and about 4,000 more lost power after Thursday's storm, according to Appalachian Power's website.

Electricity was knocked out at the Kanawha County Metro 911 center at about 12:50 p.m. after lightning hit the building. County Manager Jennifer Sayre said some administrative offices in the building were damaged by the lightning strike.

Emergency 911 calls were transferred to the county's alternate center at the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority on Brooks Street. Dispatchers moved to the ambulance authority to manage emergency calls.

"They have a switch that you flip and the calls go down there," Sayre said. She said the public could still dial 911, but the 911 center's non-emergency numbers were not working after the lightning strike.

At the ambulance authority, non-emergency calls could still be made by calling 304-542-6383 or 304-542-6387.

Sayre said 911 personnel were still having trouble with their emergency generator following Thursday's storm. The city of Charleston was loaning the 911 center a backup generator.

 On Thursday night, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin talked to the media and toured the Metro 911 center on Corridor G.

Tomblin asked West Virginia residents to be patient as electric company crews continue to restore homes affected by the massive power outages. 

He asked county officials to assess what they have done well and how they could improve with storm response.

"The [recovery] effort would have been much quicker had we had information about what type of generators hospitals need," Tomblin said.  

With so much going on, Kanawha County commissioners canceled their meeting scheduled for Thursday night.

Thursday's storm was the latest blow to power crew's since Friday's massive storm. Last Sunday night, another storm with high winds hit mainly the southern counties. Nearly 8,000 additional customers lost power in Southern West Virginia Thursday afternoon, Moye said.

Batty, with the weather service, said conditions have been ripe for the damaging storms.

"If we can get out of this pattern with high heat -- and there's been talk about a break next week in the heat -- if we can get out of that, it gives us less potential for these storms," Batty said.

Federal Emergency Management Administration officials will arrive Monday to tour 53 of the state's 55 counties. FEMA will eventually make a report determining how much federal assistance money the state will receive for recovery efforts said, Jimmy Gianato, state director of homeland security and emergency management.

Kanawha County emergency officials said several spoiled food dropoff points will remain open through Saturday.

Dumpsters for spoiled food only will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Sissonville, behind Go-Mart in Cabin Creek, Elkview Middle School, the Clendenin park and ride, the St. Albans Municipal Building on Eighth Street and the Alum Creek Volunteer Fire Department Sandplant station.

St. Albans Mayor Dick Callaway said the city's spoiled food dropoff point would remain open through the weekend.

A spoiled food dropoff point at the Nitro Library parking lot is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

Sayre said Thursday evening that a water tanker has been moved to Sissonville Elementary School to provide clean water to about 25 customers in the Grapevine area. Residents should bring their own containers to carry water.

Water filling stations were still open at the old Clendenin filter plant on Maywood Avenue and at the Montgomery Fire Department.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1254.


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