FAYETTEVILLE — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall visited communities yesterday to assess storm damage and meet with both local emergency management directors and individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy’s affect on the Mountain State.
“It was absolutely heartbreaking to meet with folks who have had their homes and businesses destroyed by the storms” Tomblin said after assessing storm damage. “As I told each and every person I met with today, I’m doing everything within my power to help all those who have been affected by the storms.
“Tomorrow, I will request a major federal disaster declaration, which if granted will bring additional federal assistance. We will continue working around the clock until all West Virginians are safe, our roads are open, and our utilities have been restored.”
“I am pressing top FEMA officials to make available all possible federal resources to aid the state in the restoration of power and opening access to roads,” Rahall said. “In that regard, I understand the U.S. Forest Service has offered its services in removing fallen trees and that food, water and generators are being delivered by FEMA to areas in need.
“Having seen the widespread damage for myself and spoken in depth with state and local officials, I will continue to make the case to Federal officials in order to assist our families and businesses in their recovery.”
“As I travel around with Gov. Tomblin and Congressman Rahall, what we’re seeing is a strong team effort, with FEMA working closely with the state and our National Guard,” Manchin said. “Our top concern right now is contacting the people we haven’t been able to reach because of heavy snowfall in the mountains. I know all West Virginians will join me in praying to the good Lord that they’re all right as we work feverishly to reach them,” Sen. Manchin said. “On top of those concerns, my heart is just broken by the devastation I saw firsthand today, but I am also truly inspired by the deep resilience of the people of our great state. Inspiring is the only way to describe the determination of these families and businesses to put their lives back together - and to help their neighbors do the same.”
While estimates of citizens without power number in the thousands, ultities have been restored to many across the state, according to a release from Appalachian Power.
“Appalachian Power crews and outside workers have restored power to more than 60,000 customers as a result of Monday’s storm,” the release stated. “Outages peaked around noon on Tuesday at more than 157,000 customers.”
Restoration times have been established for most areas, however they are estimates and could change depending on further assessment of electrical facilities and ongoing inclement weather in some areas.
Williamson, Logan and all surrounding areas were estimated to be 90 percent restored by Friday night, the release stated.
Company officials said they had been preparing for the storm since last Friday:
“Appalachian’s power outages are part of a national crisis affecting millions of customers up and down the mid-Atlantic coast. Resources have been spread very thin, but fortunately we have been able to secure plenty of crews to get our repairs completed as quickly and safely as possible,” Phil Wright, vice president of distribution operations, said.
The storm damaged a variety of equipment, including taking out 48 substations, 110 circuit breakers and 44 transmission lines. Additional crews were secured from Appalachian’s six sister companies within AEP bringing the total to more than 2,000 working on storm restoration.
Unfortunately, the death toll across the state climbed to at least five as a result of the storm, including a legislative candidate struck by a falling tree limb.
Republican House of Delegates candidate John Rose Sr., 60, was checking fences on his 100-acre deer farm near Philippi when a falling tree limb struck him Tuesday afternoon, his son George Rose told The Associated Press.
“It was a big limb,” the younger man said. “I don’t even think he knew it hit him.”
Lt. Phil Ferguson, a Barbour County sheriff’s deputy and lifelong friend of the Rose family, said tree limbs nearly took out a sheriff’s cruiser, too. Shortly after he moved it while clearing roads, four fell where it had been sitting.
“It could happen to any of us,” he said. “It’s bad out there.”
John Rose was running in the House’s 47th District. He had previously appeared at the Legislature as an advocate of deer farms, where captive herds are bred for hunting, as livestock and for commercial products. His name will remain on the ballot but there will be a special write-in period.
Leslie Fitzwater, spokeswoman for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the West Virginia medical examiner had confirmed five deaths as being storm-related, including Rose. The others were:
• a Raleigh County woman who died of hypothermia late Sunday, before the storm hit;
• a 40-year-old female driver who collided with a cement truck Monday in Tucker County;
• a 68-year-old Preston County woman who was ill and trying to get to a hospital, but died Tuesday when the family vehicle got stuck in snow.
• and a 51-year-old Upshur County man who died of carbon monoxide poisoning Tuesday.
“I encourage all West Virginians to check on your neighbors, friends and family—take care of each other,” Tomblin said. “With power companies predicting it may be several days before the power will be restored in all areas, I want to make sure our families are safe. If you or someone you know has been displaced or is without electricity, I urge you to seek out a shelter in your area for a meal and a warm place to stay.”
Additional storm updates, including road conditions, are available online at www.governor.wv.gov or https://twitter.com/wvgov.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.