Eastern Panhandle

Health officials say handmade cloth face masks like these can help limit the spread of COVID-19 from the wearer to others.
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The debate over whether to wear face masks to combat the spread of the coronavirus steered much of the discussion during a virtual town hall in the Eastern Panhandle Wednesday night. The Jefferson County Commission hosted the event with local medical professionals.

Sgt. Amouris Cos / U.S. Army National Guard


Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the Eastern Panhandle. Berkeley County has counted 22 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in the past three days. 

Berkeley County’s total number of positive cases, as of Friday morning, is 325 with 14 probable cases, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, and it has the highest number of positive cases in the state. 

On this West Virginia Morning, it's election season, and in West Virginia that used to mean everyone and their dead brother was casting a vote. Have times changed? We talk with a historian about voter fraud. Also, we hear a report on high numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the Eastern Panhandle, and we bring you this week’s Mountain Stage Song of the Week.

Gov. Jim Justice gives an update to the public regarding West Virginia's continued response to the coronavirus on Thursday, May 21, 2020.
Office of Gov. Jim Justice

Updated Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 5:40 p.m.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says the National Guard is en route to the state’s Eastern Panhandle following a spike in coronavirus cases in that region. In a virtual news conference Thursday, Justice said Berkeley and Jefferson counties each saw an increase in positive cases Wednesday. 

Martinsburg Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has issued an executive order specific to three Eastern Panhandle counties following the discovery of a cluster of confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The governor announced the new regulations in a news release issued Friday evening. 

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The coronavirus pandemic continues to be the top public health concern in the nation.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported early Thursday morning 12 new cases, bringing the total positive case count in West Virginia to 51.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, as detection of coronavirus expands throughout the state, other health challenges remain. We’ll check in with a health expert in the Eastern Panhandle, and we’ll also take a break from virus coverage and hear from kids corresponding between Wales and West Virginia.  

The Clorox Company

The Clorox Company says it plans to build a new manufacturing facility that would employ 100 workers in West Virginia.

Company officials told The Journal that they took the first step in the process of locating to the area by filing draft plans with the Berkeley County planning commission. Plans call for the plant to be located in the Tabler Station Business Park.

Empty CSX rail cars derailed on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019 near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Courtesy Washington County, Md.

Two incidents in the Eastern Panhandle that occurred over the Christmas holiday have seen some resolution.

Empty CSX rail cars derailed on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019 near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Courtesy Washington County, Md.

Updated on Jan. 2, 2020 at 1:30 p.m.

The pedestrian footbridge remains closed, according to the National Park Service. However, all areas that were temporarily closed, such as John Brown's Fort and The Point, have now reopened.

Gov. Justice's Chief of Staff Mike Hall announces the agreement with Maryland to continue the MARC train service in W.Va. at a press conference in Martinsburg on Dec. 19, 2019.
W.Va. Governor's Office

 

Gov. Jim Justice has agreed to provide the remaining funding Maryland officials requested to keep the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) in the Eastern Panhandle at its current service. The governor is also hopeful to expand the service to promote tourism in the region.

Two kittens lounge on bean bag chairs at “Give Purrs A Chance” in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


Every year for Christmas, cats are often given as gifts. But many end up in animal shelters. In fact, 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters every year in the United States, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

And every year, about 860,000 are euthanized in shelters. But places like “cat cafes” may be helping more cats find forever homes.

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Gov. Jim Justice has hired a former campaign staff member as his Regional Representative for West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle counties.

One of seven locomotives acquired by OmniTRAX after it purchased the Winchester & Western Railroad in September. Additionally, OmniTRAX acquired 470 railcars.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


Colorado-based OmniTRAX, a freight-only transportation company that links several railroads from coast to coast in the U.S., purchased the Winchester & Western Railroad for $105 million in September. 

The railroad runs through part of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, and the purchase is expected to improve West Virginia’s economy by attracting more businesses to the Eastern Panhandle.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we’ll hear how the purchase of a railroad in the Eastern Panhandle may have a big impact on that region’s economy.

The MARC train's Brunswick Line parked at the Martinsburg Train Station. Photo taken in Apr. 2018.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


Nov. 30 was the deadline for West Virginia to provide $2.3 million to the Maryland Department of Transportation to keep the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) at its current service. Otherwise, the service in West Virginia would be reduced from six trains per weekday to two. 

But it’s unclear if an agreement was reached.

Downstream of Dam #5 in Falling Waters, W.Va. during a study using tagged American eels from Millville, W.Va.
David Sutherland / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

At the end of Vineyard Road in Falling Waters, West Virginia, there is an old, stone and brick structure on the Potomac River. This small, historic building is a hydroelectric power plant owned by Cube Hydro Partners based in Maryland. Beside the structure is ‘Dam #5.’

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, for more than 180 years, American eels have not been able to swim past Dam No. 5 in Falling Waters, Berkeley County. But that’s about to change. As Liz McCormick reports, officials are finishing a new “eelway” that could potentially help thousands of eels a year migrate further upstream in the Potomac River.

Shepherdstown resident Tracy Danzey (right) walked 70 miles in 11 days from Kalundborg to Copenhagen protesting Rockwool. Martinsburg resident and former organizing director of the national AFL-CIO, Stewart Acuff (left), accompanied Danzey on the walk.
Emily Vaughn


Residents in the Eastern Panhandle continue to protest Denmark-based, stone wool manufacturing facility, Rockwool. For more than a year now, hundreds of residents still rally at commission and town council meetings in Jefferson County and at the Rockwool construction site – in an effort to stop the plant from being built.

Peer Recovery Support Specialist Roger Dodd (right) speaks to fellow members of PITAR in Petersburg, W.Va. at its October 2019 meeting.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

 


In order to help people struggling with addiction, some communities are taking steps to think outside the box. 

The Potomac Highlands region of the Eastern Panhandle has brought together law enforcement, faith-based organizations and community members. The goal is to create one robust network of support in this rural region for people struggling with substance use disorder. 

The network strives to combat stigma and offer a safety net that, for some, say feels like a family.

The MARC train's Brunswick Line parked at the Martinsburg Train Station. Photo taken in Apr. 2018.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


A few hundred people attended a public hearing in Charles Town over the weekend regarding the future of the MARC train service, or Maryland Area Regional Commuter, in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. Maryland is asking West Virginia to either foot the bill or see a reduction in service.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After the 2014 Elk River chemical spill in the Kanawha Valley, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition created the Safe Water WV initiative. The idea is simple: to strengthen a community’s connection to their drinking water and encourage them to work together to better protect it.

A couple years ago, Jefferson and Berkeley Counties decided to build off that initiative in a unique way – using the conservation of farmland and Civil War battlefields as a model for drinking water protection.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Rockwool has become a household name in the Eastern Panhandle, and it sparks a flurry of discussion and debate. The European-based stone wool manufacturing plant is under construction in Ranson, Jefferson County. That, despite pushback from residents on the grounds of environmental concerns and the plant’s proximity to an elementary school.

The MARC train's Brunswick Line parked at the Martinsburg Train Station. Photo taken in Apr. 2018.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The MARC Train, or Maryland Area Regional Commuter, serves about 250 West Virginians who live in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties.

The train has been serving the area for more than 30 years, but Maryland has always paid the bills. West Virginia was only responsible for upkeep of its three West Virginia stations.

Eastern Panhandle Gas Pipeline, Mountaineer Gas, Protest, Pipeline
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A board of high-ranking Maryland officials on Wednesday rejected a proposed pipeline across the western part of the state that would carry natural gas produced in Pennsylvania to West Virginia.

Lodge in Cacapon Resort State Park, Morgan County, W.Va., May 2008
Brian M. Powell / Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Jim Justice’s office made two announcements Friday all related to infrastructure in the Eastern Panhandle.

Jessica Leake / Blue Ridge Community and Technical College

West Virginia Public Broadcasting held a community outreach event Tuesday night at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg to discuss the future of jobs in the Eastern Panhandle.

One of West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s organizational goals is to help facilitate an ongoing statewide conversation about job opportunities in West Virginia – what jobs are out there and what are the barriers to getting them?

Broom Maker Wanda Hott (center) with her granddaughters Shelby (left) and Kierra (right).
Daniel Walker / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In 2017, West Virginia Public Broadcasting featured one of West Virginia’s last remaining broom makers; Kanawha County resident Jim Shaffer. The story ended with a question: would this dwindling art continue once Shaffer retired? Well, it turns out, a whole family in Hampshire County makes brooms together, and they were inspired by Shaffer himself.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Both the Northern and Eastern Panhandles are experiencing flooding this week as rain continues to fall on the two regions. Preparations are also being made across the state to respond to possible heavy rainfall from Hurricane Florence at the end of the week.

Angie Gray, Nurse Director for the Berkeley-Morgan County Health Department, shows a box of sealed, sterile syringes given to participants in her harm reduction program.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Across West Virginia, people are fighting back against the opioid epidemic and pushing the message of recovery. Some of these people run harm reduction clinics – which sometimes include needle exchanges. We meet a nurse in the Eastern Panhandle who runs one of these programs.

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