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Snowbound W.Va. continues digging out from Sandy

Nov. 01, 2012 @ 05:15 PM

HUNTINGTON — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has announced he will seek federal aid for people and businesses impacted by Superstorm Sandy, as approximately 148,000 customers remain without electricity statewide.

Tomblin, who met Thursday with officials in northern West Virginia, 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.

Utility crews are working to restore power to more than 130,000 customers in West Virginia.

FirstEnergy's website says more than 77,580 customers of Mon Power and Potomac Edison are without electricity Thursday. A Mon Power spokesman had no estimate on when power would be restored.

Appalachian Power says it has about 53,489 outages, including 11,536 in Kanawha County.

As of 5:15 p.m., AEP reported electricity out to 691 customers in Cabell County; 3,487 in Lincoln County; 1,792 in Putnam County; 1,225 in Wayne County; and 203 in Mason County.

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.

Conditions are much worse eastern West Virginia. FirstEnergy’s website reported more than 80,000 customers without electricity, the majority of whom reside in Barbour, Braxton, Clay, Nicholas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur and Webster counties had no power. Preston County had the most outages at 13,400. A utility spokesman had no estimate on when power would be restored.

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 snows 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. 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.
Those enjoying a belated Trick-or-Treat should find dry conditions with temperatures in the 40s.

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.