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Roofs in Nicholas collapse under heavy snow

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. -- Just after 10 p.m. Tuesday, D.A. Gohi of Nettie got a call that something was wrong at his grocery store and gas station in Summersville.

The power had gone out, and just when an employee was locking the door to leave, the worker heard "a pop and a crack" before the roof collapsed, sending more than 34 inches of snow into the store.

"It's a terrible thing," Gohi said Wednesday afternoon, standing outside the U-Save Food Store he owns on Main Street. "I must have made God mad somehow."

Residents who came to the store, one of only two gas stations in the downtown area of the city, stared in disbelief. One man pulled up to a gas pump not realizing the damage.

"I didn't even notice," he said.

To make matters worse, the roof of another grocery store Gohi owns in Craigsville also collapsed Tuesday night.

Nine other businesses and homeowners in Nicholas County are in the same boat as Gohi, as their roofs were unable to withstand the massive snowfall Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Nicholas County, one of the hardest hit counties in the state, has had 10 structures collapse, according to Carla Hennessy, the county's director of emergency services.

The water was off in Summersville, Craigsville and Richwood Wednesday as the water plants were without power and didn't have backup generators, Hennessy said.

According to Appalachian Power's website, 75 percent of the county remained without power at about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Cassondra Smearman, 23, awoke around 3 a.m. to police banging on her apartment door at the Summersville Manor on Kentucky Road.

"They told us the roof was caving in by the second and to grab what we could and get out," Smearman said.

All of about 70 tenants at the federal low-income housing complex were evacuated after aluminum awnings overtop stairwells and walkways caved in from the load of heavy snow.

Police and ambulances drove many of the families to the Family Life Center in Summersville, which was set up as a shelter.

That's where Smearman was Wednesday afternoon with her 1-year-old daughter, Kylee.

"They have everything we need -- diapers, formula, everything. There's a lot of babies here," she said, pointing to a row of cribs where several were napping. "We finally got them to go to sleep."

However, Smearman said she probably wouldn't be able to stay at the center until the apartment complex reopens.

"They said it will take about two weeks before they restore it and then inspect it," she said.

Peggy Canterbury, who manages the complex and also lives on site, said she's having trouble finding someone to do the work to fix the awnings. 

"I've got to wait for two contractors to provide me bids," she said.

Audry and Carl Copen came back to their apartment with their 2-year-old daughter Wednesday to retrieve the family's pet turtle. Canterbury was letting tenants into their apartments for a few minutes to retrieve some things they had forgotten to grab in the early morning rush.

The weight of the snow made almost every tree along U.S. 19 lean as if the wind was in mid-gust. Many, still with red, yellow and orange leaves, were snapped in half.

Plows had carved a maze through the deep snow, which exceeded 1 foot in downtown Summersville, to allow cars to crawl through the slush.

"With the weight of the snow, we're taking six steps forward and three backward," said Summersville Mayor Robert Shafer. "We'll be making progress, but then more trees will fall and structures will collapse and then more power is lost."

Many residents stood in their driveways armed with shovels despite the rain Wednesday.

"I'm afraid we're going to start seeing more and more heart attacks," said Dan Shelford, a registered nurse and risk manager for Summersville Regional Medical Center. He is concerned about the heaviness of the snow.

"We've had to actually go pick up 10 to 15 nurses to bring them to the hospital," he said, noting the hospital is short on staff. "There are a couple areas where we just can't get to people at all."

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

 


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