By Kyle Lovern
WILLIAMSON - Severe thunderstorms ripped through the Tug Valley area Tuesday night knocking out power to thousands in the region.
One local employee of Appalachian Power Company said that four utility poles and several lines in the East Williamson area were down because of fallen trees. Parts of downtown Williamson were without electricity on Wednesday.
Officials from APCO say thousands of customers lost service when heavy storms moved through areas of central and southern West Virginia.
At midday Wednesday there were more than 37,000 customers without service in a dozen West Virginia counties. A high percentage of those customers in Mingo and Logan Counties were without power.
Thousands were also without power in neighboring eastern Kentucky.
Doug Goolsby, interim Emergency Services Director for Mingo County, said the 911 office at the airport did have power and was available to take emergency calls.
Goolsby said an APCO spokesman informed him that some areas could be without power for up to two days.
“This is really the first significant weather event we’ve had for a while,” said Appalachian Power Director of Communications Jeri Matheney told WV MetroNews. “It was more organized than we expected and it effected more people. I can’t say we knew we were going to have this many outages.”
The company will use line repair crews from Virginia and other areas in an effort to restore service.
APCO also pulled crews off tree trimming duty along rights of way in a newly launched six-year project to help clear away trees from the storm.
Appalachian Power said on its website that thousands of customers had no service Wednesday across 14 counties. The utility says the Tuesday night storms caused significant damage to its system, including downed wires and broken poles.
The storms brought high wind gusts and lightning but no significant rainfall amounts.
“We’re trying to get a good feel for how long it’s going to take, but we can’t really say just how long it’s going to take to get power back,” said Matheney. “I’m sure there are going to be customers who are still out at the end of today.”
Goolsby said to for residents to use “common sense” during the power outage. If you keep your freezer door closed, food can stay frozen for a number of hours. Some food can stay cold in the refrigerator as well.
Goolsby asked residents to check on elderly neighbors, especially those who might be using oxygen machines. Portable tanks can only last for a certain amount of time. He said if the power is off for a significant amount of time, that officials have discussed opening a shelter if it is needed.
The company was concerned with additional stormy weather in the forecast for Wednesday afternoon and evening.
Other counties hit hard were Cabell and Wayne.
The storms system also felled trees in to several roadways in the area. WVOW radio reported that up to 45 trees had fallen on the road on Blair Mountain in Logan County. Many rural roads in Mingo County saw smaller limbs and debris on the roadways after the storm.
Division of Highway crews were also out moving the fallen trees.