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Crews making progress on power outages

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- AEP and First Energy repair crews made progress overnight and through the day Thursday repairing damaged power lines and transmission stations, although about 115,000 customers in West Virginia remained without electricity following the passage of superstorm Sandy.

According to AEP's website, 39,756 Appalachian Power customers across Southern West Virginia remained without service as of 10 p.m., including 5,288 in Kanawha County. Power outages in Kanawha County peaked at more than 44,000.

First Energy's website was reporting that 71,693 Mon Power customers remained without electricity Thursday night. Mon Power provides electricity to much of the northern half of the state.

Although crews were making progress, some of the hardest-hit areas of the state still had many residents without power.

In areas served by Mon Power, 89 percent of Barbour County, 84 percent of Nicholas, 92 percent of Webster, 75 percent of Tucker County, 65 percent of Randolph, 52 percent of Braxton and 42 percent of Clay had no electricity Thursday night.

In Appalachian Power's service area, 82 percent of Clay, 48 percent of Boone and 43 percent of Nicholas County customers had no power.

AEP hopes to have power restored to nearly all customers by midnight Sunday. First Energy spokespeople predict power should be restored to all customers by the middle of next week.

A 71-year-old Webster County woman's death was confirmed the state's sixth fatality from superstorm Sandy. West Virginia has a higher death toll than any of the 18 other states lashed by the violent storm's outer bands.

Family members discovered the woman's body Wednesday on her gravel driveway while they were clearing it, said Amy Shuler Goodwin, a spokeswoman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The woman was last known to be alive Monday, and family members suspect she had gone outside to feed her dogs, Goodwin said.

Besides the deaths and loss of electricity, the heavy, wet show churned out by Sandy has clogged roadways across West Virginia.

The ferocious weather also stranded the family of a 68-year-old Preston County woman while they tried to drive her to the hospital. She died Tuesday, said Goodwin, who cited information from the state medical examiner's office.

The snow was falling in Tucker County when a car driven by Nanci Hedrick, 41, slid into the path of a cement truck Monday. An 88-year-old Raleigh County woman succumbed to hypothermia late Sunday. Carbon monoxide poisoning claimed a 51-year-old Upshur County man Tuesday while he ran a gas-powered generator in his garage.

A falling tree limb killed John Rose Sr., 60, a GOP legislative candidate, as he checked fences on his Barbour County deer farm on Tuesday. But the medical examiner is not attributing the storm to a second death reported in that county, of a man in his 60s who had been shoveling snow at his home. 

All of the state's primary routes were open Thursday as Division of Highways crews turned their attention to smaller secondary routes, said DOH spokeswoman Carrie Bly.

"The biggest problem remains downed trees and power lines," Bly said.

Trees and power lines closed Hudson Valley Road, Brookhill Drive and Mount Alpha in Charleston. Crews are working to reopen those roads today, according to the DOH's road and bridge closure report.

Downed trees were cleared from Long Branch Road and Woodvale Drive in Charleston and Green Valley Drive in St. Albans on Thursday.

Bly said no DOH projects were delayed because of the superstorm.

"There are dates built in [those schedules] for weather-related setbacks," she said. "Things are going to pick up next week starting Monday on those projects."

Warming centers in Kanawha County were open Thursday at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Sissonville, the Hansford Senior Center in St. Albans and the Salvation Army in Charleston. Overnight shelters remained open at the Salvation Army and the Hansford Center. 

Schools are closed Friday in Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Clay, Nicholas, Preston, Randolph, Taylor, Upshur and Webster counties. Because of power outages, Alum Creek and Watts elementary schools in Kanawha County are also closed.

Area food banks struggled to provide food and other items to those who lost their refrigerator's contents during the power outages.

Kanawha officials said they would hold a collection drive this week to benefit the Mountain Mission in Charleston. Baby supplies such as diapers, wipes and formula, winter coats and non-perishable food are the most needed items.

Drop-off locations will be at the Kanawha County Courthouse, the Appalachian Power offices in Chase Tower on Virginia Street East and the West Virginia American Water offices at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Collection trucks will also be in front of the courthouse Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fayette County Commission President Matthew Wender said early voting would resume Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Early voting is happening at the courthouse in Fayetteville, the Danese Community Building and Montgomery City Hall, he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers temporarily closed the Gerald R. Freeman Campground at Sutton Lake to clean up storm damage and allow crews to restore power.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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