Utility: Restoring Power Could Take Days in State
A utility sent helicopters to survey damage from severe thunderstorms that left tens of thousands of homes and businesses in West Virginia without power. In some hard-hit areas, residents were told it would be days before their power was restored.
Appalachian Power said on its website that more than 55,000 customers were without electricity late Thursday morning in southern West Virginia. That included nearly 11,000 in Fayette County and 9,000 in Kanawha County.
FirstEnergy said more than 12,000 customers were without service, including 1,400 in Braxton County.
Schools in all or parts of 16 of the state's 55 counties were closed Thursday due to the storms, which brought high wind gusts and dumped more than 2 inches of rain in some areas Wednesday.
The National Weather Service continued a flood warning in Pleasants, Ritchie, Tyler, Wirt and Wood counties due to flooded roads. In Tyler County, Middle Island Creek hit its highest crest in 20 years.
Appalachian Power said about 100,000 customers — or nearly one in five in West Virginia — were out of service during the height of the storm. The utility said it is dealing with broken poles, uprooted trees and downed power lines.
The utility said it was sending helicopters to survey the damage Thursday. The company estimates that 60 distribution circuits, 21 distribution stations and more than 20 transmission lines were affected by the storm.
The utility estimated that service in 10 counties would not be restored until Sunday. The company was bringing in 400 contract workers to help with repairs.
At least one church opened its doors as a warming station to residents without power, and a high school was allowing the public to use its facilities to take showers and charge their cellphones.
The state attorney general's office urged residents who are hiring companies to fix damaged homes to obtain written estimates from multiple vendors and ensure that contractors are licensed.
On the heels of the storm, forecasters predicted up to 3 inches of snow were possible in higher elevations of the state by Friday evening.
Although West Virginia sees few tornadoes every year, the state has had its share of storm problems.
Last June, flooding killed 23 people statewide and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes, businesses, schools and infrastructure. And a 2012 derecho packing hurricane-force winds left 680,000 customers statewide without power, some for as long as two weeks.