Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 3, 2012

Groups step up to assist residents

BLUEFIELD — Emergency crews worked to restore vital services while local churches, charities and businesses opened their doors to residents in need Monday after a weekend of heavy storms swept the region.

Tim Farley, emergency management director for Mercer County, said crews were working to ensure water and sewer systems were still running despite the loss of electricity.

“As of yesterday, most of our businesses were still open,” Farley said. “Though (about) 12,000 people have lost power, most of them have been in the rural areas. We are working more on making sure local water systems and sewer systems are operating due to the loss of power. I’ve been without power myself for two days, so I understand what people are going through.”

Stacy Hicks, CEO of the Princeton Rescue Squad, said some local residents have been staying at the rescue squad since Friday night while others are stopping by to cool down.

“We have people staying here who don’t have any power,” he said. “We are open 24/7 and will do everything we can to help anyone who comes by. We haven’t really counted how many people have come through. Some have come and just stayed for a while and others have been sleeping here just until they get their power back.”

Hicks said the elderly and small children should be monitored closely for signs of heat exhaustion.

“The biggest thing is especially with the elderly and the young to keep them out of the heat and drink plenty of fluids, water, Gatorade,” Hicks said. “If they start feeling any kind of signs of heat exhaustion such as dizziness or fainting they need to contact a medical professional. We’re here to take care of the community. That’s just what we do.”

The Chuck Mathena Center also opened its doors as a cooling center and is allowing residents to charge electronic devices or use free wireless Internet during business hours. The center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the duration of the outages, but will be closed on July 4 for the holiday.

The Mercer County Courthouse remains closed due to the state of emergency declared in West Virginia while power went out Sunday night to the West Virginia State Police Princeton Detachment as well as several businesses near Exit 9, according to police officials.

Concord University’s campus in Athens is closed through the Fourth of July holiday due to the state of emergency and power outages. Essential personnel will report as directed by supervisors.

Volunteers at the Bluefield Union Mission continued handing out bottled water, cooling fans, ice, flashlights and shelf-stable food to area residents coping with power outages. Craig Hammond, executive director of the Union Mission, said the mission has one cooling fan for every eight people requesting them. After cooling fans, Hammond said the most requested item has been flashlights. The mission is providing shelter for people with urgent medical needs. Anyone having spare flashlights, cooling fans or other items may drop them off at the mission or call 1-800-491-HELP.

McDowell County Emergency Services spokesman John Sidote said anyone needing drinking water can go to the 5,000-gallon water tanker at Kimball Elementary School. Those needing water are asked to bring their own containers. The Five Loaves and Two Fishes Food Bank in Kimball has also been open as a cooling station for residents beginning at 8 a.m. until dusk.

Roofs were blown off from some buildings in Welch and several locations that had previously seen their power restored lost power again Sunday night, Sidote said. Outages were reported in various areas including Iaeger, Laurel Creek, Cucumber, Kimball, Jenkinjones, Anawalt, Welch, Premier, Roderfield, Avondale, Wilcoe, and Gary. However, Sidote said power was still on in many areas of Welch where residents from as far away as Wyoming County were arriving to get hot meals and gasoline.

Dave White, emergency services coordinator for Tazewell County, said crews were out and about Monday working to keep water and sewer service going as well as providing water supplies to residents.

“Right now we are looking at about 4,000 people without power,” White said. “We have been patrolling the whole county where there is need to provide water supplies. We have been coordinating with the town of Pocahontas, who have been without water and power. The PSA has been out and about. Everyone has been hit equally.”  

Tazewell County Administrator Jim Spencer said two cooling stations at the Bluefield, Va., Rescue Squad and Department of Social Services in Tazewell, Va., were closed Monday due to lack of interest.

“No one came to the cooling stations over the weekend,” Spencer said. “I have been without power myself since Friday night. A lot of people have been doing what I’ve been doing, which is going out to eat or shop or staying in their basement. I think rather than staying home in the heat a lot of people are going shopping and doing other things to get out of the heat.”

Officials in Monroe County met Sunday afternoon in Union to discuss countywide issues caused by storm damage. Tim Wilson, acting director of the Monroe County Emergency Services, said the Monroe County 911 Center is operational on back-up power and officials have been taking calls for assistance since the storm.

The town of Union is also using a generator to operate sewer and water systems in the area and residents can also purchase a minimum of 100 gallons of water through a coin-operated system at the Union Town Hall for emergency purposes. Officials report that bottled water and ice is also available at the 911 Center in Union from daylight to sundown.

Julie Mundell, a spokesperson with the Monroe County Health Center, said the center in Union will be open on Monday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. only for those needing urgent care. Two cooling stations have been established in the county at the Union Senior Center and the Lindside Senior Center and will be open from 11:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. daily as problems persist.

Officials in Monroe County are asking that residents of the county check on their neighbors to make sure they are okay or to see if they have any needs. Anyone with a question or concern can contact the county’s non-emergency assistance hotline at 304-772-3912.

The Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office said additional trees were downed across the area as the result of Sunday night’s storms and power outages. A cooling station had been opened at Riverview Elementary School in Grundy, Va., on Saturday but was closed due to lack of interest.

More trees were also downed in Giles County, according to the Giles County Sheriff’s Department. A shelter was opened at Giles County Rescue Squad in Pearisburg, Va., from noon to 9 p.m. for urgent care patients only. Two cooling stations were also opened at the Pembroke, Va., Fire Department from noon to 9 p.m., and at God’s House Church in Pembroke, Va., from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

— Contact Kate Coil at

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