Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 2, 2012

Citizens stifling in dark

PRINCETON — Another day of suffering for some and relief for others came and went Sunday with thousands of local residents still in legion with hundreds of thousands of people in the eastern United States who lost power when a summer storm swept through the region knocking down trees and power lines along a broad swath.

The Mercer County Courthouse will be closed today to let people who may have had business at the court, or for those who work at the courthouse, to attend to personal matters. Mercer County Circuit Clerk Verlin Moye said the courts and the county commission made the decision to close the courthouse late Sunday afternoon.

“The feeling was that the people need another day to get their lives together,” Verlin Moye said.  “There are a lot of people in the county who still don’t have power, and everyone has been through a lot this weekend.”

“We’re making some progress, but there’s just a lot to it,” Phil Moye, spokesperson for Appalachian Power Co., said. “Late Friday night, the total number of customers who lost service was 566,000, and right now, the total is 473,000,” he said at about 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon. “That’s just 7,000 customers short of getting power restored to 100,000 customers in just two days.”

As of mid-afternoon on Sunday, there were still 10,648 Mercer County APCO customers who did not have power, according to Moye. “That represents about 30 percent of our customers.” At the same time on Sunday, 6,500 APCO customers in McDowell County, 2,100 customers in Monroe County, 4,900 customers in Giles County, Va., 2,025 APCO customers in Tazewell County, 1,008 APCO customers in Buchanan County and 600 APCO customers in Bland County, Va., also remained without power.

“When you look at it, if you live in a state that is both heavily forested and mountainous, there will be power outages when you have storms that have strong winds,” Moye said. “But when you think about a storm that had a footprint the size of this storm with power outages in 11 states, including 1.4 million customers in the service area of our parent company, American Electric Power. AEP serves 5 million customers in its service area, so that storm had a major impact throughout our parent company’s service area.”

Although some local residents believe a small tornado swept through the area, Moye said the storm featured straight-line winds. “It just had a lot of intensity and it was being pushed hard and fast,” Moye said.

Dennis Sleighter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg, Va., said the weather pattern that the Bluefield area is in right now will likely persist until mid-week with a high of 91 predicted for today and highs in the high 80s through Thursday.

“The chance of rain will remain at 20 to 30 percent daily with the best chance for rain on Wednesday evening to Thursday morning,” Sleighter said. The temperature reading at the Mercer County Airport hit the 90-degree mark at 4:56 p.m., Sunday — the fourth consecutive 90-degree day in Nature’s Air-Conditioned City.

Traffic on I-77 remained heavy Sunday, but the lines of cars on the exit ramps had declined significantly compared to the number of the cars lined up to buy gasoline on Saturday, according to Trooper J.C. Teubert of the Princeton Detachment, West Virginia State Police.

“It’s not nearly as bad as it was on Saturday,” Teubert said. “We helped one lady who ran out of gas on the Princeton exit ramp. She was traveling with her 93-year-old grandmother. She pulled her vehicle to the side of the ramp. We took enough gas to her to get to a station. I would say that the Courtesy Patrol has been very busy this entire weekend.”

In addition to loss of electricity service, many area residents and some businesses did without Internet service as provided by Frontier Communications. According to a message recorder on the Frontier service line dated Sunday, the storm that caused widespread power outages also caused an interruption in Frontier’s DSL service.

“Our network administrators are working to resolve the problem,” according to the recorded message. “There is no estimated time for this resolution.”

The Bluefield Union Mission has served 159 meals during the weekend and has provided shelter for eight people who sought them out during the storm, according to Craig Hammond, executive director of the Union Mission.

“On Saturday, we were busy with requests for bottled water, fans and ice, but (on Sunday) most of the people who came here needed a hot meal. We were really blessed that we did not lose power, and we were able to serve them,” Hammond said.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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