WAYNE — As of Friday evening, only one West Virginia county — Wayne — has more than 1,000 customers without power following historic back-to-back winter storms on Feb. 11 and Feb. 15.
A report from Appalachian Power, the last the company planned to issue regarding the storm damage, said 96% of customers have had their electricity restored, but there are still about 400 locations where repairs must be made before power can be turned back on. The difficulty is that the majority of repairs will restore service to fewer than three customers, according to the utility company.
On Thursday, it was announced efforts would shift to Wayne and Hamlin due to their larger numbers of remaining outages, but power officials say much work remains.
In all areas, the objective was to get the majority of affected customers back on by 10 p.m. Friday, though some had received a new restoral time of 10 p.m. Sunday.
Wayne County Emergency Director BJ Willis said he didn’t think there would be a full restoration by the 10 p.m. deadline, but he hoped it would be close.
“There are still going to be locations of needed repairs where one or two places on the line will still not have power, but I think the majority will be online,” he said.
Line workers and others will continue to work throughout the weekend until all customers have power, Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said in an email Friday.
“Customers have exhibited incredible patience and understanding as thousands of employees and contractors have worked tirelessly and in difficult conditions to make repairs,” he said. “Since the storms hit, the Appalachian spirit has been on full display with the community providing workers with coffee and warm meals, homemade cookies, and hand-drawn thank you cards. Thank you for your kindness.”
With rain in the forecast for the weekend, Willis said there is no concern for widespread post-storm flooding.
“I, along with a meteorologist, went out and studied the streams in the county, and they did not appear to pose any danger for flooding,” he said. “There is always the chance of the ‘perfect storm’ in which something could happen, and there may be a few issues in places that are already prone to flooding, but it doesn’t appear to be an issue.”
Despite the amount of damage in both the county and Tri-State, there has not been a federal declaration of a national disaster.
The president can declare a major disaster for any natural event, or, regardless of cause, fire, flood or explosion, that they determine has caused damage of such severity that it is beyond the combined capabilities of state and local governments to respond.
A major disaster declaration provides a range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work.
FEMA evaluates the estimated cost of federal and nonfederal public assistance against the population to give some measure of the per capita impact. FEMA uses a per capita amount as an indicator that the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that it might warrant federal assistance, and adjusts this figure annually, based on the Consumer Price Index.
Willis said so far one issue in obtaining the declaration at the national level is the number of individual storm lines that occurred. Each storm counts as one act, meaning the amount of damage would need to be combined to achieve the monetary amount needed for the declaration.
Another issue comes from the damage itself.
Though thousands of power lines were disrupted, utility lines were disturbed, poles were broken and trees were downed all over, not all damage can be claimed.
Appalachian Power has built-in fees to cover lines and other costs associated with upkeep and damages, meaning those costs cannot be counted into the total destruction cost.
At the height of the weather event, 97,000 Appalachian Power customers lost power, a number that has now dropped to 4,000.
Kentucky Power said it is wrapping up restoration work Friday and Saturday for customers in areas that suffered extensive damage. More than 59,000 customers lost power at the peak from back-to-back ice and snowstorms that started Feb. 10.
As of Friday morning, 600 customers in Lawrence County remained without power, along with 200 in Boyd County.
Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative said Friday morning that 264 members in southern Lawrence County have yet to have power restored, down from 7,700 at the beginning of the second ice storm Feb. 15. It hoped to have most members back in service by Friday evening.
“Those 264 represent 22 different outages, with 17 of them 5 members or less (most are singles). We know you’re anxious to get your power restored and our men are ready to travel home locally and across the state to their families. We just want to get it done safely,” the utility wrote in the update. “The men and equipment are in place and they started the day with 150 breakfast sandwiches, 150 packed lunches and 18 pans of Matt Hall’s mom’s famous cinnamon rolls. We are blessed to have support from 17 electric cooperatives from around the state and our electrical and tree contractors. As well as everyone that works behind the scenes to ensure they are able to get the work done. All working safely and the job is nearly completed.”