6:00: Morning News

State of Emergency declared as counties struggle with mounting power outages

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has declared a State of Emergency for four counties in West Virginia in connection with Monday night’s ice storm in western West Virginia and a State of Preparedness in 51 additional counties connection with an approaching storm system.

The state of emergency, issued Tuesday afternoon, covers Cabell, Lincoln, Putnam and Wayne counties.

A state of emergency frees up state resources and relaxes certain provisions to aid in a response to an emergency.

The West Virginia National Guard announced following the governor’s declaration 27 members are assisting local response efforts to storm damage.

“Multiple counties have reached out through our partners at the West Virginia Division of Emergency Management and placed requests for Guard assistance,” state Adjutant General Bill Craine said. “Our One Guard team will be on the ground working shoulder-to-shoulder with local emergency management officials and first responders helping to get our communities stabilized and safe.”

Frank Chapman, Putnam County’s Emergency Services director, realized as he drove to work early Tuesday morning his department wasn’t dealing with a normal post-storm emergency. In fact, the damage he was seeing on the ride to the office in Winfield reminded him greatly of the aftermath of the 2012 Derecho, the storm by which most others are often measured.

Frank Chapman

“I was seeing power outages where you seldom see them and whole blocks of businesses and neighborhoods in the dark. Aside from the temperatures and the ice, the power outages were very much like that,” he said.

However, the comparisons aren’t quite even because after the Derecho, people still had 90 degree temperatures. The county’s second ice storm in a week was about to be followed by teen and single digit temperatures. The forecast caused even more alarm for Chapman.

“Some people have been without power since the original storm last week and are still without power and will probably be out for a couple more days. We’re going to open up a couple of shelters for those who need it,” Chapman added.

Listen to “B.J. Willis Wayne County Emergency Services Director” on Spreaker.

The shelters will be at the Winfield Community Center and the Teays Valley Church of God. Chapman said they couldn’t open a shelter on the other end of the county in the Hurricane area since all of the power in those locations was out.

Crews were also dealing with a lot of tree damage, much of it blocking some of the major roadways.

“We’ve got trees down on Route 34 between Winfield and Hurricane. There are trees down on Route 35 near the Buffalo Bridge area,” he explained.

There were similar problems, but probably on a larger scale in Wayne County. Almost 80% of the homes and businesses in Wayne County were out of power and Emergency Services Director B.J. Willis told MetroNews most of them for the time being were inaccessible.

“We have trees blocking every major road going in and out of the county. You can’t get from Wayne to Huntington right now,” Willis said on Tuesday morning.

The National Guard and Division of Highways had crews in the region to assist Appalachian Power crews to remove the debris to get to the damaged. The communications situation for the Wayne County 911 center was also a concern for Willis.

“The phone line from Frontier, the trunk line, is laying on the ground across Route 152. That’s one reason why we have 152 shutdown, we can’t have cars driving over the main phone line into the 911 center,” he said.

Frontier had an emergency team headed to the scene to make repairs. Willis said for the moment the 911 center was still operating with phone service, but worried generators at the tower sites were getting low on fuel and were almost inaccessible. He worked to get help from the state for equipment to make it to those sites to refuel.

Ross Mellinger

Downed power lines and trees in the road were a similar problem in Jackson County. Sheriff Ross Mellinger noted many of his deputies wielded chainsaws overnight Monday into Tuesday to help get roads back open in remote parts of the county. He encouraged everybody to stay home.

“You have to use a little bit of common sense and stay off the roadways. Travel only in emergency situations, because that’s what we’re in right now,” he said.

Those county leaders also encouraged those who had resources to check on a neighbor who may not have resources like a generator or alternate heat source. It’s unknown how long it will take all of the damage to be repaired.

Appalachian Power said Tuesday evening outages in West Virginia peaked at more than 97,000 customers following heavy damage from Monday’s ice storm; more than 60% of customers in Cabell, Wayne, Putnam and Lincoln counties lost services.

As of 10:45 p.m., around 72,000 customers still did not have power.

Gov. Justice’s State of Preparedness declaration instructs the other 51 counties to get ready for more winter weather later in the week.

The Governor’s office released the following statement along with the declarations:

“The Governor has directed the West Virginia Emergency Management Division to:

–Implement the West Virginia Emergency Operations Plan as it relates to winter storm response.
–Mobilize appropriate personnel and resources to respond to the emergency.

Yesterday, Gov. Justice announced that he was calling upon the West Virginia Emergency Management Division to stand by on “high alert” to coordinate a potential response to the storm.

The State of Emergency will remain in effect for 30 days, unless terminated by subsequent proclamation.”

The state of emergency will last 30 days unless it’s canceled by Gov. Justice.

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