Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

October 31, 2012

Area residents endure potent one-two punch from powerful storm

BLUEFIELD — Sandy left a fair amount of damage in her wake before leaving the two Virginias, but the resilience of local residents shined through after surviving a one-two punch of high winds and snow.

“We’ve been through this before,” Welch Mayor Reba Honaker said Tuesday afternoon during a cell telephone interview. Thousands of Appalachian Power Co., customers in McDowell County lost power when strong winds and snow pushed through the mountains of southern West Virginia. On Tuesday morning, more than 20,000 APCO customers in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph’s 7-county service area were powerless, but power crews worked through the challenges.

“We lost power at 2:30 a.m., (Tuesday),” Honaker said. “We have had firefighters and city crews out cutting trees out of the streets. When I was up on Belcher Mountain, it looked like we had about 5 or 6 inches of snow, but the wind was what got us.

“We don’t have any electricity at city hall,” Honaker said. “Wendy’s (in Junior Poca) doesn’t have any power. Goodson’s (also in Junior Poca) has power now, but they’re closed, but the Sterling Drive-in is open. Most of North Welch along Stewart Street didn’t lose power. The winds are still blowing, but we’re mostly quiet now.” The city canceled its trunk or treat event scheduled tonight, and the county Fighters’ Association canceled its ladder truck fundraiser scheduled Saturday at Riverside Park in downtown Welch.

“Right now, cell phones are about the best means of communication in the county,” Honaker said. “I don’t know how we ever got along without them.” Cell service in several McDowell County communities remains spotty at best.

“Things are winding down now,” Nick Fillo said Tuesday afternoon. Fillo is a meteorologist with the Blacksburg, Va., office of the National Weather Service. “We’re keeping an eye on it, but the worst of the storm is over now and it’s making its way north into central New York State. The circulation center of the storm is over Pennsylvania now. The winds are not nearly as strong as they were last night, but I guess I don’t have to tell anyone in that area about that.”

By 8 a.m., Tuesday morning, Bluefield had 11 inches of snow, while both Tazewell, Va., and Richlands, Va., reported 8 inches. The Winter Storm Warning is set to expire at 8 a.m., today, but the Weather Service is keeping a chance of snow in the forecast until early Thursday afternoon. Local night time temperatures should climb above the freezing mark on Friday and the daytime high temperature on Sunday should reach 54 degrees under mostly sunny skies.

During the height of the storm Monday night and early Tuesday morning, Craig Hammond said that the Bluefield Union Mission provided shelter for 12 people. “They were real hard luck cases,” Hammond said. “A couple of them were elderly folks.

“It doesn’t stop when the snow stops coming down,” Hammond said. “It’s non-stop with providing blankets, kerosene and food.”

Bland County Administrator Eric Workman said that he. Sheriff Jerry Thompson and Lorin Handshew, emergency management coordinator for Bland County, traveled through the county Tuesday to access the extent of the problems.

“APCO is in the process of getting power restored to the people who lost power during the storm,” Workman said. “Some parts of the county didn’t get very much snow at all, but Rocky Gap and Ceres got quite a bit of snow. Of course, it wasn’t anything in comparison to what they got up in Bluefield,” Workman said.

The Wytheville, Va., based Division IV of the Virginia State Police responded to 617 calls for service starting at 12:01 a.m. Sunday through 10 a.m., on Tuesday. Statewide, the state police in Virginia answered a total of 5,098 calls during the Hurricane Sandy period.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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