MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Life after Superstorm Sandy was slowly returning to normal across West Virginia's hardest-hit counties Wednesday, but officials in some places said a full recovery will take months.
About 21,000 West Virginia homes and businesses remained without power as utility crews continued restoring service knocked out by the storm. Ohio-based FirstEnergy said it expects to return electricity to most customers by late Friday and the remainder by the end of the weekend.
Its website showed Preston County with nearly 6,000 customers still in the dark Wednesday morning, and Randolph County a close second with more than 4,000 outages. The utility said it had about 3,000 outages in Upshur and about 2,000 in Barbour, but fewer than 2,000 apiece in Webster and Tucker counties.
Appalachian Power's website showed only 128 people without power, all in Raleigh County.
Schools remained closed in Preston and Webster counties, but Preston emergency management director Duane Hamilton said authorities are working with the school board in hopes of getting buses back on the road next week. Crews remained out across the region, cutting back toppled and snapped-off trees and hauling them away from the roadsides to make the lanes more passable,
Though nearly every road in the county was open, Hamilton said, "the total recovery from this is going to take months."
The extent of the damage depended mainly on elevation, with the highest parts of the county taking the hardest hits.
"There was damage from one end of the county to the other," he said.
But calls for assistance and emergency food and water deliveries have trickled off, and a dozen volunteers from the Tennessee-based group Volunteers Active in Disasters were out shoveling snow from roofs and removing trees from individual homes while National Guard and other teams worked on public property.