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Residents without power head for hotels (with video)

Kenny Kemp
Drivers waited in line for gas at the 7-Eleven on MacCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City on Tuesday afternoon, after other stations in the area were hit by power outages.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Area hotels filled up quickly and people filed into stores that remained open Tuesday to grab winter-weather supplies, food and fill up on gasoline in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

A steady stream of cars pulled into the Kroger parking lot at Ashton Place on Tuesday afternoon -- and left after glancing at a "no power" sign taped to the door.

The store's power went off at 8 a.m. Employees said they had already turned away more than 100 customers by about 2 p.m.

Charlie Songer, 54, of Cross Lanes, was waiting in the Kroger parking lot to meet his mother and sister. Even though he didn't have power, he had a kerosene heater and was going to bring his mom, who lives in South Hills and had lost power, to his house so she could stay warm.

Other people who didn't have power checked into hotels. Employees at the Fairfield Inn and the Hampton Inn in Charleston said rooms had sold out around 11 a.m. Tuesday. At 4 p.m., the Town Center Marriott only had a few rooms left, an employee said.

In Winfield, the Holiday Inn didn't have any vacancies Tuesday afternoon.

"Everyone called first thing in the morning and we filled up," said employee Tanner Taylor. "It was the same situation when we had the extended power outage a few months ago."

An employee with the Quality Inn on Harper Road in Beckley said at 4 p.m. that the hotel had around 10 rooms still open, but believed most other hotels in the area were full and would be sending people their way.

"I hope the [forecasters] just apologize and say 'Hey, we were wrong.' They were saying we'd maybe get an inch on the ground in the Kanawha Valley," Songer said. "Boy, were they wrong."

Songer said he didn't have much meat in the freezer that could spoil during the power outage since most of his stockpile had been ruined after the massive windstorm over the summer.

"At least I won't lose a lot this time," he said.

Darrell Murray, 60, of Charleston, said he had a lot of food at his house "but no way to cook it." His power had been off since early Tuesday morning.

Murray was leaving the Charleston Town Center Mall and heading down the street to vote early.

"I'm a teacher, so I'm not working. I decided to go ahead and get my tires changed and then I stopped at the mall for lunch and thought, 'Hey, I'm right here, I might as well vote early as well,'" he said.

In Kanawha County, about 500 people had decided to vote early despite the weather, according to an employee at the voter's registration office. Last week, though, around 1,400 were coming in per day to cast their ballots, she said.

Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood said last week about 650 voters were voting early per day. Around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, only about 150 had come to the courthouse, he said.

"The power has flickered here a couple times," Wood said. "But we've printed out all our books to look [voters' registration information] up by hand, so if the power goes out we'll still be able to process voters."

Workers at Lowe's in Kanawha City said that there was a steady stream of customers entering the store all day, looking mostly for normal winter supplies.

Store manager Christy Gragg said that customers were also buying supplemental heating and cooking items like kerosene lamps and grills. Shipments of merchandise have been on schedule and the store is well stocked, she said.

"It's been a normal, steady stream of customers looking for general winter preparedness items," she said.

Stoplights along MacCorkle Avenue were not working on Tuesday afternoon. At times, drivers were honking and flashing their high beams at each other at the intersections. There was also a long line of cars filing out of the 7-Eleven on 50th Street, one of the few gas stations in Kanawha City with power.

Elijah Locke-Jones, 9, of Charleston, and his mom, Torri Locke, who live on the West Side, were at the Town Center Mall Tuesday. They had power, but no cable. 

The boy said he was enjoying the day off from school, but was worried the storm might ruin trick-or-treating. He plans to dress up as Michael Jackson from "Thriller."

Trick-or-treating in Kanawha and Putnam counties had already been rescheduled to 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, but county officials were considering whether they should reschedule trick-or-treating again because of power outages.

The annual "Trick-or-Beat" event at Appalachian Power Park, sponsored by 98.7 "The Beat" radio station, was moved to Nov. 7.

While thousands of West Virginians were struggling with snow and power outages Tuesday, Aimee Figgatt was trying to catch up with a runaway cow.

Tessa, a black Dexter cow, got loose sometime in the early morning from Figgatt's farm along West Washington Street, not far from the intersection of Roxalana Road.

"At 3 a.m. she was still outside the kitchen here," Figgatt said after a fruitless daylong search. "I've been on the phone with 911 half the day."

Reports of a wayward cow began coming in to the Kanawha County Metro 911 center at about 5 a.m. Figgatt began looking for Tessa at about 8:30 a.m., after first learning she was gone.

It's not that Figgatt never found Tessa. At one point, she even got a rope around her neck. But the spooked cow ran every time Figgatt got too close. Emergency officials were able to ping Figgatt's cellphone when she spotted the cow, but she was gone by the time anyone could have gotten to her.

"She's not tame like all our other animals," she said. "The man we got her from never handled her, and she's afraid of people, especially men."

Figgatt said Tessa never made it into town, but wandered an approximately seven-mile route through the woods around Dunbar and North Charleston.

"She made it down to the Cold Spot, and then the tracks show she went up and over into the woods," Figgatt said. Tessa was last seen at Wine Cellar Park near Dunbar.

Reports on the wandering cow came into 911 throughout the day as she was spotted in yards or along the road. Figgatt said Tessa weighs about 400 pounds, which is small by bovine standards but still a not insubstantial weight.

With cold hands and numb feet, Figgatt gave up the chase at about 2:30 p.m. Although she hasn't completely given up hope that Tessa will come home on her own or calm down enough to be captured, 911 officials have been given permission to issue orders that she be shot on sight.

"That's the only thing we can do to keep her from causing a wreck," Figgatt said.

Figgatt asked anyone who spotted Tessa to call 911, who will in turn notify Figgatt. She will try to rescue the cow herself, but admitted it might be necessary to put the animal down.

Staff writer Zac Taylor contributed to this report.

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

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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