Recovery, power restoration expected to take days in counties hit hard in Tuesday’s storm

CHARLESTON , W.Va. —¬† Gov. Jim Justice has placed four counties under a state of emergency as West Virginia faces its latest disaster recovery effort.

Damage at the Wendy’s in Kanawha City. (Photo/MetroNews)

Justice placed Kanawha, Lincoln, Fayette and Nicholas counties under the declaration Tuesday afternoon just hours after a major line of storms moved through packing 80 and 90 mph winds knocking out power to more than a quarter of Appalachian Power customers in central and Southern West Virginia.

“We believe, for the recovery process, this is going to be days if not weeks,” Kanawha County Commission President Lance Wheeler told MetroNews.

Appalachian Power entered Tuesday evening with nearly 123,000 customers, 26% of its customers in West Virginia, without power from more than 11,000 individual outage tickets. Company spokesperson Karen Wissing said the damage is significant.

“Lots of tree downs, significant wind damage, not only from trees falling down but actual infrastructure, utility poles,” Wissing said. “Street lights have also been pulled down and we’re seeing a lot trees and tree limbs that have been brought down.”

MORE see video of storm moving into Charleston

The utility will have 1,200 additional workers from places like Virginia, Indiana and Missouri assisting it crews to restore service.

Lance Wheeler

Appalachian Power said it hopes to have 90% of its customers in Boone, Logan, Mingo and Raleigh counties back on by 11 p.m. Wednesday and 90% of its customers in Cabell, Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Mason, Nicholas, Putnam, Roane and Wayne counties back on by 11 p.m. Thursday. Wissing said those estimates could change.

Kanawha County has the most outages at more than 52,000 or just more than half of all of Appalachian’s customers in the county without service. Other counties have fewer customers but there percentages are staggering including Nicholas County 97%, Clay County 91%, Fayette County 76% and Lincoln County 43%.

Wheeling said there was never a confirmed tornado in Kanawha County but the damage is like one went through.

“It was the wind here alone with shingles flying around, porch patio furniture flying around and trees falling. This is destruction that we haven’t seen for years here in Kanawha County,” Wheeler said.

Karen Wissing

Kanawha County authorities were watching the storm on radar and became even more concerned when they noticed it was not breaking down. The decision was made to activate the county’s emergency siren system.

“I think today the sirens saved lives,” Wheeler said.

Kanawha County officials have also reached out to FEMA in hopes at some point gaining a federal disaster declaration.

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