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Fewer than 26,000 power outages remain in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- FirstEnergy expects to restore electricity by late Friday to a majority of its remaining West Virginia customers who lost service because of superstorm Sandy.

The utility reported 25,668 outages as of 5:15 p.m. Tuesday. That's down from a peak of 210,000. Preston County has the most remaining outages with about 6,925.

FirstEnergy said customers in the most heavily damaged areas might not regain electricity until the weekend.

Appalachian Power's website did not report any outages Tuesday evening. The utility said Monday that it expected to restore power to all customers affected by the storm overnight.

Meanwhile, state officials expect road cleanup following Sandy to cost the state $6 million.

The state already has spent more than $4 million to remove downed trees, power lines and snow from roads.

Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox told the Charleston Daily Mail that only a handful of roads remain closed.

Mattox said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is starting to assess damage in counties affected by the storm.

The Department of Transportation received nearly $11 million from FEMA to help cover the $14 million cost of cleaning up roads following the June 29 derecho. Mattox says he expects the federal agency will pay for most of the costs of the latest cleanup.

Some state voters still digging out from the storm were casting their votes Tuesday with some help from the National Guard.

The Guard has set up tents at three polling places and provided generators to help provide power to five other areas of the state that were hardest hit by last week's storm.

Preston County was buried in up to 2 feet of snow in some areas and nearly 7,000 were still without power Tuesday.

In Newburg, 53-year-old Freda McDaniel lost power seven days ago; she's been getting by with a generator. Those hardships didn't prevent her from voting. She went to a last-minute polling place in a funeral home to cast her vote for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

It may take until spring to reach and clear some roads blocked by downed trees and branches in the Monongahela National Forest, following the heavy early-season snowfall that accompanied Sandy's path through West Virginia's eastern mountains.

U.S. Forest Service officials in Elkins said that the hunting season -- already underway -- is shaping up to be challenging for hunters because of the large number of trees blocking forest roads and safety threats posed by storm-damaged trees and limbs along trails and in the forest.

Road-clearing priority will go to forest roads normally open at this time of year.

A band of forest extending from Richwood through Elkins to Parsons, and the lower-elevation areas of the 921,000-acre Monongahela seem to have received the most damage from the storm, according to the Forest Service.

The Marlinton-White Sulphur Ranger District along the southeastern portion of the Monongahela and the area around Petersburg escaped major damage from the storm.

Elsewhere in the state, Holly River State Park in Webster County closed for the year because of a lack of power, water, telephone and Internet service. The 8,101-acre park's cabins and campground normally stay open until the last Monday in November.

Blackwater Falls State Park in Tucker County remains closed because of a lack of power and storm-downed trees blocking access roads. The park's year-round lodge, cabins and restaurant were expected to reopen early next week.

Power has been restored to nearby Canaan Valley Resort State Park, which has reopened and is operating normally.


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