WILLIAMSON, W.Va. – The Tug Valley and surrounding areas were hit hard Wednesday morning by what emergency officials are referring to as possible straight line winds. Heavy rain, hail and winds accompanied the severe thunderstorms.
Doug Goolsby, interim Emergency Management Director for Mingo County said, “All indications are the damage done in downtown Williamson Wednesday morning was caused by what is often referred to as straight line winds. There is a very slight possibility the damage may have been cause by what is also known as a rain wrapped tornado, but I feel this is highly unlikely scenario, especially with all the damage being so high, we did not see any overturned cars or damage of that nature.”
During the storm the roof of Dandy’s, a local bar was ripped off, which caused damage to the roof of the Memorial Building or what is known as the Courthouse Annex Building. For a short time people inside the building were moved to the basement while the threat from the storm passed. A county commission meeting was being held at the time the storm hit. The Memorial Building was then evacuated and closed for the remainder of the day.
Those inside the courthouse were evacuated to the basement of that building.
There is no word on the extent of the damage to the roof of the building, officials were still assessing the damages and there is no estimate as to the cost of repairs, it is also unknown as to when the building will reopen. The building houses the Magistrate Court, the Mingo County Library and several county offices.
In addition to the damage to the Memorial Building, upwards of 20 vehicles were damaged by flying debris, including a West Virginia State Police cruiser, Doug Goolsby’s Emergency Management vehicle and several other vehicles owned by courthouse employees, the damages ranged from broken mirrors, scratches and dents, to busted windshields and backglass. Also damaged was the awning on the building across the street which is attached to the George Poole Building. No injuries were reported.
Goolsby said after checking with the 911 office, it was determined the wind damaged started somewhere around the Stepptown area and continued the path southward to Williamson. Goolsby went on to say there were reports of trees down all over the county and several transformers damaged through- out the county. A few reports also came into the 911 office regarding damages to homes in the Bias, Ragland and Varney areas. Goolsby will be following up on those reports.
Schools were dismissed in the Gilbert, Lenore and Delbarton areas around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, however, students was not dismissed at Mingo Central High School, Tug Valley High School or Williamson Pre K-8. School officials allowed parents to pick up their child(ren) from these schools if they wanted to do so.
Pike County, Ky schools dismissed county-wide at 1:00 p.m.
“We were looking at another round of storm plummeting the area between noon and 1:00 p.m., it was a God send the rains that came through cooled the temperature down and the line of storms broke up before they reached our area.” Said Goolsby.
According to Sara George with Highway District 12, the high winds cause traffic signal issues in all seven of the counties in the district which include: Lawrence, Johnson, Martin, Floyd, Knott, Pike, and Letcher. Traffic Technician Supervisor Keith Coleman said crews are responding as quickly as possible to determine the extent of the problems. They are taking generators with them in case power outages are the cause. “We have more reports of signal problems than we have people in our crew,” he said. “We are working as quickly as safety allows. We will investigate every report, from Phelps to Louisa, from Inez to Whitesburg. It may take a while.” Coleman said if you come to a set of signals that are flashing red, treat the intersection like a three-way or four-way stop. “Any time a signal is out, pretend you have a stop sign. It is more important to be safe out there than to travel quickly in a time like this. We want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding. Hopefully, the storms will pass quickly and we can get everything back in working order soon.”
Locally, the traffic lights from the intersection at the West End cut-thru all the way to the US 119/Hwy 319 intersection at Toler, Ky. were affected by the outage, the traffic lights at the Harvey Street Bridge/South Williamson intersection were quickly restored.
Gas stations from Belfry to Williamson were without power causing a traffic backup along West Second Avenue throughout most of the day, in addition all restaurants in the Belfry, Goody and South Williamson area were closed due to the lack of power creating an overflow of customers for the downtown area establishments at lunch time, one local restaurant had an estimated delivery time of approximately two hours.
As of press time the Kentucky Power Company had issued the following storm update in a press release stating about 27,000 Kentucky Power customers lost service Wednesday morning after strong thunderstorms, winds and a possible tornado moved through eastern Kentucky. The storms resulted in many broken poles and multiple spans of down wire. Crews are assessing damage. Many of the affected customers are served by the Ashland and Pikeville service districts.
Strong winds peaked at 68 miles an hour in Knott County; 56 mph in Jackson; 45 mph in Pike; and 44 mph in Ashland. Forecasts call for a continued chance of showers and thunderstorms. Some of the storms could produce gusty winds and heavy rain. Additional rain could saturate the ground and lead to additional weakened trees falling on power lines. There also could be instances of flooding in the region.
Storm Response Efforts:
Kentucky Power crews and contractors are responding to outages and assessing damage in affected areas as quickly as possible. Kentucky Power has requested 100 additional mutual assistance workers from outside our service territory to help with restoration efforts.
As of noon Wednesday, about 25,000 customers had lost power.
· Boyd, 5,007, Breathitt, 1,893, Carter, 299, Floyd, 2,917, Greenup, 1,771, Johnson, 684, Knott, 384, Lawrence, 843, Leslie, 59, Letcher 33, Magoffin, 663, Martin, 1,052, Pike, 7,815.
A snapshot view of current outages affecting 100 customers or more is available anytime at kentuckypower.com/outages. The outage map is updated every 15 minutes. Restoration information is added when known. Click pm “View Outage Map” to access the map on a computer, cell phone, or tablet. Customers can report outages online. On their mobile device or to our Customer Solutions Center at 1-800-572-1113.
West Virginia outages:
More than 98,000 Appalachian Power customers were without service Wednesday afternoon after severe storms raced through the region.
As of about noon., the power company’s website reported that Kanawha County has 8,760 customers without service, while Putnam had 6,798 and Cabell had 2,282.
Other counties with a significant number of customers without power were Fayette, 15,208; Jackson, 2,318; Lincoln, 2,179; Boone, 3,537; Nicholas, 2,352; Wayne, 4,973; Mingo, 6,203; Logan, 7,366; Raleigh, 6,846; Wyoming, 4,387; McDowell, 6,256; and Mercer, 4,095.
Kendra Mahon is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News, she can be contacted at [email protected] or 304-235-4242 ext 2278.