WILLIAMSON — Friday’s storm left more than 680,000 people in West Virginia without electricity, prompting President Barack Obama to issue an emergency declaration for the state.
The emergency declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide help and coordinate relief efforts. It follows Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s declaration of a state of emergency.
“The damage from (the) storms is widespread and in many places severe,” Tomblin said. “With temperatures near 100 degrees expected this weekend, it’s critical that we get people’s power back on as soon as possible. We’re committing 100 percent of our state’s resources for as long as we need to get this cleaned up.”
Tomblin said the outages’ extent greater than any in recent history, affecting 53 of the West Virginia’s 55 counties.
“West Virginians without power should stay as cool as possible and drink plenty of water,” a news release from Tomblin’s office stated. “The elderly and others susceptible to extreme heat should consider moving to an air conditioned location or seeking help if they feel that their health is threatened. All West Virginians are urged to check in on friends and neighbors who may need assistance, and to call 911 in the event of emergency.”
The outages have limited access to gasoline across the state. Pumps at some stations are out of service and stations with working pumps are seeing long lines of vehicles.
Tomblin urged residents to stay off the roads so emergency responders have access to gasoline.
“Our emergency responders and service personnel need to get to our families,” Tomblin said. “I’m asking all West Virginians to please stay off the roads unless it is an emergency. This will allow the power companies and state agencies to clear the roads and get power restored as soon as we can. Also, please do what you do best — help one another. Check on family, friends and neighbors and make sure they are safe. Unfortunately, this is not going to be solved quickly, so I ask that you please stay patient during this difficult time.”
State officials are assessing nursing homes and hospitals to determine whether evacuations are needed.
U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller (both D-W.Va.) also released statements regarding the storm’s affect on West Virginia.
“I strongly encourage everyone to please be careful, stay hydrated and also conserve smartly, stay away from downed power lines, and check in on your family, friends, and neighbors,” Rockefeller said. “And if needed, please go to available shelters to avoid the dangerous heat. In the event of an emergency, call 911.
“I already spoke with Gov. Tomblin and we are determined to bring every resource together to help the state recover. And my staff is actively engaged across the state and has been in touch with West Virginia’s electric and phone companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Guard, Red Cross, and shelters throughout the state to help assess damage and look for solutions. I remain committed to helping in any way I can until we recover.”
“Last night’s storms caused severe damage and left hundreds of thousands of West Virginians without electricity in this extreme heat,” Manchin said. “I urge all West Virginians to be very careful, stay hydrated, and check on your neighbors – especially the elderly. I know the state will do all it can to care for those in need, and I will do everything in my power to make sure West Virginia gets any needed federal assistance very quickly.”
However, West Virginia wasn’t the only area affected by the storms. Kentucky was as well, though at not nearly the same magnitude.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission listed 63,481 power outages from Friday afternoon through midday Saturday.
The most recent update as of presstime on Kentucky Power’s website listed Pike County, Ky., as 13,331 people without power; Floyd County, Ky., with 3,384; and Martin County, Ky., with 3,913.
The Daily News received reports that the Virgie, Dorton and Jenkins areas of Pike County have power.
Appalachian Power said restoring service would be a multi-day effort but it couldn’t provide an estimate. MonPower said it could be a week before service was restored to customers in the hardest-hit areas.
Pike County spokesman Brandon Roberts said on Saturday that the overnight storm had complicated efforts to offer cooling stations in the area where the forecast high for the day was 102 degrees.
Cooling stations were planned at the Mouthcard and Phelps Community Centers, but Roberts said those facilities were without power.
Roberts also said most of the Sidney and Canada areas were without power Saturday, and that, once it was restored, the Pike County Government would take a large generator to Feds Creek to supply power to the center.
People in both states are firing up generators, seeking refuge at shelters or finding other ways to stay cool after power outages left them with no air conditioning.
However, many places sold out of generators, forcing local people wanting to stay cool at home to drive to Charleston to test their luck.
Deaths were reported across the eastern part of the United States from the storms, but neither those nor any injuries have been reported in the Tug Valley area. However, 911 operators have still been swamped on calls with trees blocking roads and multiple false alarms having gone off, with one officer telling the Daily News that he suspected the storm somehow caused the alarms to malfunction.
A fire alarm went off at Williamson Memorial Hospital yesterday, prompting the Williamson Fire Department and Williamson Police Department to respond. After a thorough search, Fire Chief Jerry Mounts confirmed to the Daily News that it was indeed just a false alarm.