Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 31, 2012

Thousands across region remain in the dark

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Thousands across the region are still in the dark today, and officials expect that the number of outages will continue to climb.

According to APCO, approximately 3,060 customers in Mercer County, 5,366 in McDowell County, 5,131 in Tazewell County, and 4,603 in Buchanan County were without power as of Tuesday evening. Power was restored in Bland County at approximately 1:30 p.m. Tuesday while all outages in Giles County were restored at approximately 3:30 p.m.

An official statement released by APCO said the restoration of outages across the region “is expected to take several days.” Phil Moye, a spokesperson with Appalachian Power, said outage numbers continue to climb.

“It is still premature to put any time-frame on our restoration effort as we continue to see outage numbers rise throughout the day,” he said. “Our outage numbers are going up, which means the damage is continuing. It is still too early to tell how long this restoration effort will take. We are taking care of some of the larger outages as we can.”

Moye said the storm is one of the worst winter weather events the company has dealt with.

“The storm isn’t over,” Moye said. “It is still causing more damage. Right now, we are facing a very large winter storm as far as the scope and the amount of damage. It is ranking up there with the strongest of winter storms, which is surprising since it is still October. This will definitely rank right up there with the number outages and geographic outages as a large winter storm.”

APCO listed Mercer and McDowell counties as locations with the highest number of power outages in West Virginia while Tazewell and Buchanan counties were considered some of the hardest hit in Virginia.

“Pretty much across our West Virginia service territory, and into the coalfield counties of Virginia as well, are seeing major outages,” Moye said. “We are getting the weather that was predicted and even more. We are receiving a fair amount of snow in areas where rain was only predicted.”

Moye said crews are still trying to assess how much damage has been done.

“Like any major storm we have, we pretty much work on three fronts when the storm first hits,” he said. “We are repairing large outages that impact critical infrastructure like hospitals, water and sewer stations. We are also taking care of public safety situations like downed lines and trees. We are also out seeing the damage, to assess if we have more trees down or lines down, how bad the damage is and where it is. That gives us a much clearer picture of how many people we will need and when restoration will occur. That has been difficult since travel is pretty treacherous.”

Widespread power outages across the eastern U.S. could make securing additional contract workers for the power restoration efforts difficult, Moye said.

“There are more than a thousand workers dedicated to the restoration effort,” Moye said. “About half are our workers and half are local contractors. It is difficult to get workers since the damage is on a large scale and in some of the large population centers of the country. We are getting help and getting assistance from our sister companies in Texas, Oklahoma and Indiana. We don’t know what our final numbers will be, but we are working to get reinforcements.”

Moye said areas in higher elevations appear to be the worst hit by the storm.

“The higher elevations have received a larger amount of snow,” he said. “The longer snow continues to fall and the longer these winds continue to whip around, we are going to see power outage numbers go up before they go down. I would venture the most damage so far has happened in the higher elevation areas where there is a lot of tree exposure.”

Moye said APCO crews are working longer shifts to do more assessments.

“Our specialists are going out at daybreak and staying out there and looking at things as long as they can to get those damage assessments,” he said. “Anytime there is a storm situation, these guys are working 16-hour shifts. We will be out there all day during the day. We generally have a smaller number of people out at night just because the work conditions are more difficult and there is less you can do at night. We are trying to take advantage of those daylight hours as much as we can.”

For now, Moye said residents are encouraged to report their outages and to stay away from downed lines.

“When we have storm like this, there will downed wires and downed trees,” Moye said. “Stay away from these downed lines and report it to us to handle. The other thing people need to do is to report their outage. A lot of people assume that we know they are out, but it really is important for individuals to report their outages by phone or online.”

West Virginia residents can report outages at 1-800-982-4237 while Virginia residents can call 1-800-952-4237.

— Contact Kate Coil at