Strong winds, high water knock out power across West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Strong winds and high water were causing all kinds of problems in West Virginia to start the new week with the end of February in sight.

At one point on Monday morning, more than 75,000 homes and businesses in West Virginia did not have power following a high of 91,000 outages statewide on Sunday night.

“This storm really blew across our entire service area,” said Phil Moye, spokesperson for Appalachian Power.

The case was the same for FirstEnergy, the parent company of Mon Power and Potomac Edison.

“Not only Mon Power, not only First Energy, but other utilities throughout the region are all in the same boat,” said Todd Meyers, manager of external communications at FirstEnergy.

From Sunday into Monday, the weather system packing prolonged damaging winds was affecting states from Illinois to the East Coast.

Sustained winds of 15 mph to 40 mph were being reported along with frequent gusts of 40 mph to 55 mph or higher, confirmed Simone Lewis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

High Wind Warnings or Wind Advisories from the National Weather Service were scheduled to continue in West Virginia’s Eastern Mountain and Eastern Mountains into Monday afternoon at least.

Such warnings were indications of sustained winds at 30 to 40 mph with gusts of up to 65 mph and as high as 75 pmph for elevations above 3,000 feet.

On Sunday, records showed gusts of 88 mph and 83 mph hour at and near Snowshoe in Pocahontas County.

In Tucker County, Canaan Heights saw gusts of 74 mph. Wheeling hit 63 mph, Martinsburg 66 mph, Elkins 59 mph and Charleston 54 mph, according to information from NWS.

“That does not do the trees any good and, in some cases, (we’ve had) not only tree branches but entire trees coming down into the lines,” Meyers said.

Because of the widespread nature of the damage and limits on outside help as a result of the storm’s reach, he said it could be late Thursday before most power service is restored to customers of Mon Power and Potomac Edison.

Moye said it would be later in the day Monday before Appalachian Power could begin to make any projections about restoration.

Part of Sixth Avenue in Huntington was closed on Sunday because of falling glass from windows at the Prichard Building being broken in high winds.

For many across West Virginia, Monday was a cleanup day.

“(They’re) Cleaning up fallen trees and the debris from the wind storm,” said Lora Lipscomb, public information officer for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“Everyone is kind of grouping together — the Division of Highways and our first response agencies, the local volunteer departments are working alongside crews from utility companies and they’re clearing trees from roadways and trying to assist with power restoration efforts.”

Power outage damage assessments and repairs were being slowed by continued strong winds along with high water.

Workers could not safely make repairs from buckets as long as wind speeds topped 30 mph, power officials said.

Numerous road closures were reported across West Virginia for mudslides and rockslides along with downed trees and power lines.

Public schools were closed in six counties — Brooke, Doddridge, Marshall, Morgan, Preston and Wayne — with individual school closures in other counties and delays in more than a dozen others.

The Ohio River was expected to run above flood stage at Point Pleasant in Mason County, where a Flood Warning was in effect, until late Tuesday morning.

In Lincoln County, the Guyandotte River at Branchland was expected to fall below flood stage later Monday.

Flood Warnings were extended into Monday afternoon for counties generally along the Interstate 64 corridor between Huntington and Charleston and south into southern West Virginia.

“Emergency management and local officials continue to report flooding conditions across portions of the warned area,” forecasters said.

Overall, though, “There should not be, as of our latest report, should not be any major river flooding,” said Lipscomb.

Better weather was ahead for West Virginia, according to Lewis, the meteorologist.

“It’s actually looking dry until probably about Thursday or Friday and then we have another system, but it’s not going to be anything like what we had over the weekend,” she said.

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