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Sunday storm adds to state power outages

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Appalachian Power officials had hopes of having electricity restored to around 95 percent of its West Virginia customers by Sunday. And the company was on track to do that Sunday.

Then a new line of thunderstorms pummeled the state, causing more than 20,000 additional power outages across the state.

"We were pretty well on our way but those storms started moving the outage numbers back in the wrong direction," Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said.

At around 2 p.m., outages in West Virginia numbered in the 41,000 range, Moye said. By 6 p.m., as another line of thunderstorms crossed the state, an additional 20,000 West Virginia customers were out of power, he said.

Around 10,000 of the new outages were in the Kanawha Valley and the other 10,000 were in the Huntington area, Moye said.

At around 8 p.m., 15,000 Kanawha County customers were without power, he said. 

Sunday marked the third storm that caused a setback for Appalachian Power after a June 29 storm knocked out power to more than half a million West Virginians, 330,000 of them AEP customers.

A storm on July 1 caused an additional 30,000 customers to lose power. Another storm July 5 knocked out power to around 40,000 people in West Virginia, Moye said.

"It's a big letdown for us and a big letdown for the customers who are, I'm sure, at wits end from not having power for nine days," Moye said.

Moye said the company plans to reassess its estimated restoration times Monday. Sunday's storms will "certainly" extend the time it takes the company to restore power, Moye said.

"We had known this was a possibility for the last couple days," Moye said of Sunday's storm. "The good news is we do have a lot of help with the restoration. They're already heavily involved in it. Having them here after the storm passes is going to be a big help to us."

Since the initial storm, Appalachian Power has had 3,500 contracted workers and another 1,500 of its own employees dedicated to restoration efforts, Moye said.

The storm caused more power outages in the South Hills and Kanawha City areas in Charleston as well as high water in Sissonville, said Kent Carper, Kanawha County Commission president. A news release from county manager Jennifer Sayre said there were reports of new power outages in the Pinch, Clendenin, Dupont City, Loudendale, Fort Hill and Malden areas.

Carper said officials had considered shutting down the emergency operations center, but in light of the most recent storm, it will remain open until further notice. The county had also planned to close its cooling station and water and ice distribution centers after Sunday as the demand had started to slow, said David Erwin, emergency operations center coordinator for Kanawha County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Carper said the county would reassess whether or not to close the stations after Sunday's storm.

"We will assess everything," Carper said.

According to the Metro 911 website, Kanawha County emergency crews responded to calls of trees down in Charleston, Belle and Chesapeake as well as high water in Nitro and Malden, among other calls.

"The first thing you have to do is trying to assess," Carper said soon after the storm. "We know from the volume of calls that [Sunday's storm] was significant. The calls were significant."

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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