KINGWOOD, W.Va. – One year after Superstorm Sandy slammed into West Virginia, emergency management directors are looking back at those last days of October 2012 and the changes made since then to improve emergency services.
Preston County was one of the hardest hit areas in West Virginia. Office of Emergency Services Director Duane Hamilton said it didn’t catch them off guard.
“We knew it was coming. It was kind of teeter tottering back and forth whether it was going to be rain or snow, obviously we got nailed with a huge amount of snow,” remembered Hamilton. Three feet of snow to be exact.
“It was a wet snow and it tore trees down all over the place and power lines and caused a huge impact as far as electrical and phone utilities,” stressed Hamilton.
In fact, 97 percent of the county was without power for one or more days, some residents went without for more than two weeks.
Hamilton says the Preston County Office of Emergency Services learned quite a few lessons. The result lead to a new computer program that better maps out the county and gives emergency workers a better idea of the hardest hit areas.
“It’s built into our mapping program so that response-wise, we can respond a lot more effectively with the health and welfare teams from the West Virginia National Guard,” according to Hamilton.
As for Tucker County, they got snowed under as well. Ninety-five percent of residents were without power.
Tucker County Office of Emergency Management Director Darla Stemple says once the snow started falling, it got a bit eerie .
“It really wasn’t mass chaos because it was so quiet,” she explained. “Once the phone lines went down, it was hard for anyone to get word out.”
She said folks in Tucker County aren’t strangers to lots of snow or even power outages. That’s why most people have generators. What they didn’t have was the fuel to power them.
“It has shown the residents the need to be prepared for this type of event at any time,” said Stemple.
She said the county’s emergency plan is basically the same post-Sandy. However, the office is a lot more savvy about how to implement it. And Stemple says she’s put out her own mandate.
“There will be no more disasters for at least five years,” she laughed.