CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the aftermath of the June 29 derecho, thieves stole 20 backup generators from Frontier Communications. Now a company executive wants to see harsher penalties for such crimes committed during a state of emergency.
"I think the generator thefts were thefts of opportunity," said Dana Waldo, Frontier's senior vice president and general manager for West Virginia.
He didn't know if the people who stole the generators from remote sites took them to use or to sell.
Waldo said Monday that he wants to see legislation introduced that would impose harsher penalties on crimes like generator theft during a state of emergency.
Eleven people were arrested and charged with theft in connection with the backup generators. Five of the generators were recovered.
Waldo's comments came at a public hearing held by the state Public Service Commission Monday morning. The PSC is assessing how well utility companies responded during the June 29 derecho and subsequent storms.
Frontier, which provides landline telephone service, lost power to half of its 230 wire centers after the storm, Waldo said. The company provided power through generators and batteries in those areas, he said. The storm affected 27 of the 50 emergency 911 centers that Frontier provides service to, Waldo said.
Waldo said while service was affected to customers during and after the storm it would have been worse had the company not invested $200 million in its infrastructure.
Waldo said Frontier devoted the investment into strengthening the system's day-to-day operations, but he also believes the investment proved itself worthwhile during the storm.
Besides Frontier, the PSC heard from officials from Appalachian Power, Monongahela Power, the Black Diamond Power Co. and West Virginia American Water.
The derecho was the single-most devastating weather event in the history of Appalachian Power, said Phillip Wright, vice president of distribution for AEP.
More than half a million state residents lost power as a result of the storm. Some remained without power for nearly two weeks later.
The storm, which originated in Illinois and Indiana, was 100 miles wide when it reached West Virginia, Wright said.
APCO meteorologists were predicting a thunderstorm, but didn't know it would be so severe, Wright said.
APCO brought in an additional 3,500 workers to help with repairs and had trouble finding places to lodge them all, Wright said. Hotels were filling up because of the Greenbrier Classic and other events, he said. Workers stayed in dormitories at the University of Charleston, West Virginia State University and Concord University, Wright said.
From now on, when need be the company will seek out "mom and pop" hotels and others to house the workers, he said.