By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON — Watch the storm damage video here
BLUEFIELD – Crews are continuing their efforts to restore electricity to customers who lost their service Thursday when severe thunderstorms blew across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.
Approximately 1,600 Mercer County customers remain without power this morning. Across the state line in Virginia, 898 Tazewell County consumers still do not have electricity, and another 1,002 remain in Giles County.
A severe storm front left high water, fallen trees and more than 100,000 people in the dark Thursday as it swept across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.
The National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va., issued severe storm warnings Thursday afternoon for counties on both sides of the state line. The warnings were later lifted. Rain began falling at 1:30 p.m. in the Princeton and Bluefield areas with winds gusting up to 40 mph.
Mercer County 911 quickly started receiving calls from across the area about fallen trees and fallen power lines. Soon after 1:30 p.m. a large tree blocked Courthouse Road near Princeton. More trees and high water were also reported along Airport Road. Downed trees and power lines were also reported along Oakhurst Avenue and Cumberland Road in Bluefield.
In Princeton, the heavy rain brought high water to Stafford Drive.
The city has been working to find the funding necessary to address the persistent drainage problems along that roadway.
“We had high water in the usual areas, Bee Street and Stafford, Trent Street and Stafford,” said Fire Capt. Sean Wyatt of the Princeton Fire Department.
Stafford Drive remained passable and the water later receded. The fire department and the Princeton Street Department cleared away tree limbs that came down in a few parts of the city, Wyatt said.
Power outages, however, continued after the storm had left the region. By 5 p.m. almost 120,000 Appalachian Power customers had lost service, with 106,000 of them in Virginia and 18,000 in West Virginia.
By 7 p.m. more than 5,241 Mercer County customers were still without power. Another 429 outages were recorded in McDowell County.
At the same time across the state line in Virginia, more than 5,700 power users in Giles County had lost service. In Tazewell County, 1,476 consumers had lost power. Appalachian Power also reported 102 outages in Buchanan County, 151 in Bland County and 203 in Wythe County.
Power crews were still assessing the storm damage Thursday evening, said Phil Moye, a spokesman for Appalachian Power. Estimates about when service would be restored were not immediately available.
“It’s grown significantly, especially toward the Roanoke and Lynchburg area,” Moye said about the number of outages after the storm. “In Roanoke, there were huge trees that sliced through houses, and winds were 68 to 70 mph.”
Recent rain had left the ground saturated in some areas. This made trees more prone to falling when high winds arrived, Moye said.
In Tazewell County, a two-vehicle crash was reported in Raven near Richlands, Va., but it was not known if the severe weather was a factor, said Sheriff Brian Hieatt.
“And we’ve had some trees down and some high winds, but as of yet, we haven’t had any flooding,” Hyatt said early Thursday afternoon. “We had downed trees in Dry Fork, on Marion Avenue in Tazewell, and power lines down in Bluefield, Va., and in Abbs Valley.”
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org