Crews with Appalachian Power are still examining damage this morning from a powerful storm that knocked out electricity to more than 566,000 customers
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has declared a statewide state of emergency as a result of the storms.
"Our emergency responders and service personel need to get to our families," said Gov. Tomblin. "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."
Winds in excess of 75 mph downed trees and power lines across the region Friday night, and forced the evacuation of thousands from the Second Chance Rocks the Virginias Concert at Mitchell Stadium in Bluefield. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Thousands are still without power this morning. Appalachian Power reports that 12,481 customers are without electricity in Mercer County; 8,087 in McDowell County; 3,139 in Tazewell County; 2,481 in Bland County; 7,644 in Giles County; and 1,143 in Buchanan County.
Jerri Matheny, a corporate communications manager for Appalachian Power, said there is no estimate at this moment as to when power will be restored. She hopes to have power restoration estimates by later this afternoon, but APCO crews are still locating and surveying the damage.
Complicating restoration efforts is the excessive heat. Temperatures across the region are once again today expected to reach close to 100. A high of 97 is predicted for Bluefield.
Appalachian Power has requested 500 additional workers to assist with restoration efforts in the region, according to the company’s website.
Readers of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph’s Facebook page have reported damage across the region, including a tree on a house in Princeton, trees on fire in Giles County, and trees downed on roads across the region. Several residents claim a tornado touched down, but no such reports have been confirmed by the National Weather Service.
The fast-moving storm caused problems across the region. In McDowell County, residents in the Maybeury community were forced to evacuate at 12:15 a.m. Saturday morning after a gas line rupture was reported, according to the West Virginia State Police Welch Detachment.
The gas line has since been restored, and families have been allowed to return to their homes.