W.Va. continues to dig out
HUNTINGTON — Worn-out residents and highway crews continued digging out Thursday from a blast of heavy, wet snow from Superstorm Sandy, and they are receiving help from ambulance officials in Cabell County.
The hurricane-induced blizzard dumped more than 2 feet of snow on Snowshoe Mountain in Pocahontas County. That prompted firefighters and emergency service officials to ask Cabell County Emergency Medical Services for use of its medical Humvee.
The heavy-duty, military-grade ambulance left Huntington on Wednesday for Snowshoe.
The ambulance and its crew of approximately five likely will remain in Pocahontas County through Friday or Saturday, but Cabell County Emergency Medical Service Director Gordon Merry said they will stay longer if needed.
The crew's mission is to assist local paramedics in treating patients stranded in hard-to-reach areas. Sandy's snow still had many roads closed Thursday in eastern West Virginia.
"I'm going to do anything to help the citizens of Cabell County and West Virginia," Merry said.
Widespread power outages were Sandy's other lingering problem.
As of Friday afternoon, about 95,000 homes and businesses remained without power in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
FirstEnergy's website says that about 64,600 customers of Mon Power and Potomac Edison are without electricity.
Nearly 24,000 of those are in Preston and Randolph counties, alone. The other hardest-hit counties include Barbour, Nicholas, Webster and Upshur.
Appalachian Power, meanwhile, says it's down to fewer than 31,000 customers without power.
As of 4:10 p.m, AEP reported electricity out to 227 customers in Cabell County; 2,216 in Lincoln County; 881 in Putnam County; and 407 in Wayne County. Power was restored to all AEP customers living in Mason County by Thursday evening.
The AEP website estimates projected 90 percent restoration by late Friday night for Lincoln, Mason and Wayne counties, along with Huntington and areas of western Cabell County.
The wait will be a bit longer for areas to the east.
AEP hopes for 90 percent restoration to areas of eastern Cabell County and neighboring Putnam County by late Sunday night, according to the website.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin traveled Thursday to meet with officials in Barbour, Preston, Randolph, Tucker and Upshur counties. He said he'll ask President Barack Obama to approve individual and public assistance for residents and businesses in the hardest-hit areas. Obama already approved aid for state and local governments to recoup funds spent on recovery efforts.
In Morgantown, what little snow there was disappeared and rain fell Thursday morning. Heading southeast and higher into Preston County, the trees wore heavy white coats, their limbs drooping over the roads.
In Terra Alta, more than 2 feet of snow clogged the streets, huge icicles dangled from twisted rain gutters and the canopy over the gas pumps at a convenience store was collapsed under the weight of snow.
Residents wielded blowers and shovels, but it was slow going.
"We've been shoveling for, like, ever," said Christy Trembly, who had one son working alongside her while two others sledded down the hill.
The power is back on, but without phone, Internet or TV, the children pass the time by helping with the outdoor work, playing games and sleeping.
"There wasn't too much complaining, though," Trembly said. "I am impressed with how everyone's handling it."
In Nicholas County, 40 percent of the roads remained closed due to heavy snow and downed trees, said state Department of Transportation acting district engineer Steve Cole. Eighty employees were clearing roads in the county, where snow drifts of up to 5 feet have been reported and several roofs collapsed earlier in the week.
Cole hoped to have all roads in the county reopened by Thursday night.
"We have all week been sending additional crews up there," Cole said. "One issue we had up there for the first few days of the storm, we would get a road open, and no sooner would we leave and go to another road, more trees would fall in. We were like a dog chasing its tail."
The same problems are occurring in Barbour County, said Jim Ancell, the county's interim deputy director of emergency services.
"The ground's so saturated with water, the least little disturbance is causing the trees to keep coming down," Ancell said.
U.S. Route 250 in Barbour and Randolph counties was reopened Thursday, but Ancell said about half of his county's secondary roads remained closed, along with dozens of roads elsewhere in the state.
A few hundred feet of elevation can made a difference.
In Preston County, residents are used to tough winters, Trembly said. They just usually start a little later.
"But people here are pretty resilient. They learn to deal with it and always have food, and gasoline, generators -- some people have generators, which is nice," she said. "You just smile and grin and bear it. Keep going."
Schools remained closed for a third day in at least 21 counties.
The American Red Cross was sending mobile units to provide food and water to communities in Boone, Nicholas and Tucker counties, spokeswoman Katie Bender said. Red Cross shelters remained open Thursday in Bruceton Mills, Inwood, Martinsburg, Masontown, Morgantown and Ranson.
Superstorm Sandy was the result of a hurricane combining late Monday with a cold front in New England. Together it created a super low pressure system that devastated areas of New York and New Jersey, while funneling significant amounts of heavy, wet snow into West Virginia.
The National Weather Service predicts the Tri-State will experience partly sunny skies Thursday afternoon with a high temperature of 50 degrees.
The overnight low will dip to 36 degrees with a chance of sprinkles between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. Friday.
Partly sunny skies return for Friday afternoon with a high once again at 50 degrees.
Partly cloudy skies are forecasted for Friday night before a chance of rain showers return for Saturday and Saturday night.
Saturday's high temperature will reach 53 degrees.
Sunday will bring mostly sunny skies with a high temperature of 52 degrees.
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