WILLIAMSON - A special emergency meeting was called by the Mingo County Commission on Saturday, to address the powerful straight-line winds that damaged property throughout the county on Friday evening, that left over 50 percent of Mingo County residents without electric service.
A motion was made and seconded to declare the county in a state of emergency until further notice.
“We have been out in the county accessing storm damage and it appears that the areas that were hit the worst and who received the most damage were the Gilbert Creek area, Kermit and Breeden, which ironically, are located on opposite ends of the county,” stated Mingo County Emergency Services Director Jerrod Fletcher, who joined the commissioners for the emergency session.
“We had roofs blown off of several homes in the Gilbert area, and reports are coming in from all across Mingo of property damage due to trees falling on top of houses, businesses and vehicles, as well as numerous trees that fell across roadways, blocking traffic in either direction.”
“Winds in excess of 60 miles an hour were reported, and has been described as tornado-like conditions.”
“The Delbarton Volunteer Fire Department cleared 13 trees out of the roadways Friday night, and Gilbert cut and removed 17 in their communities, most of them being on Rt.80 in the Burner area,” said Fletcher. “Gilbert, the Stafford District and Ben Creek appear to have been hit harder than most of the county.”
“Appalachian Electric Power has helicopters in the air reviewing the damaged areas, trying to estimate the length of time it will take to complete the repairs,” explained the Emergency Services Director. “We’re being told at this point that some locations make be without electric until Friday of this week but we’re hoping that doesn’t happen.”
Sunday evening, another powerful storm passed through the Tug Valley area, adding to the damage that occurred on Friday and disrupting power in some areas where it had only been reconnected hours before the second storm front wreaked havoc in Mingo, as well as Pike and Martin Counties in Kentucky.
“AEP had repaired a lot of electric lines and had restored service to approximately 30 to 35 percent of the affected areas that had their service disrupted on Friday,” stated Fletcher, “But along came the second storm Sunday evening that cancelled out a lot of their progress plus added additional disruptions in areas that had been fortunate enough to miss the worst of it on Friday.”
“Sunday afternoon, we were given an update from AEP that that only 20 percent of Mingo County remained without electric but since the storm on Sunday, we’re back up to 60 percent being without power, which is an even higher number than on Friday,” commented Fletcher.
“We’ve ordered 6 large generators from the state that will be utilized for companies and businesses such as Norfolk Southern’s Williamson Yard, as well as others,” explained Fletcher. “Unfortunately, we’ve only received 1 so far, and I’m sure this is due to requests for generators pouring in from all over the state.”
One death within the state has been attributed to the storms and high winds, which was Edward F. Riffle, Jr., an ATV rider in Pleasants County that crashed into a fallen tree in the dark.
Commissioners David Baisden and Greg “Hootie” Smith, along with several other county employees and workers with the Judge’s Work Program were at the county garage Monday morning, helping to load palettes of water into pickup trucks that were transporting them to designated locations throughout the county to supply those in need.
“We’re being told that everyone’s electric should be restored by Friday at the latest, but this estimated time frame could develop setbacks and delays if we have more storms and high winds this week as predicted,” said Fletcher. “AEP has brought in workers from other states to assist them, but it’s not a quick fix in most cases.”
Fletcher told the Daily News that the state has provided most of the water they have been distributing to the public thus far, with the exception of one truckload purchased by the county commission.
“The state has been bringing the cases of water to the Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Logan, and we’re picking it up there and bringing it back to the county garage, which I’m using as my operations center,” remarked Fletcher. “This way, we keep an accurate total on what we’re receiving and what we’re sending out to each location within the county.”
To date, the commission has delivered water to dispensary locations in the communities of Kermit, Dingess, Matewan, Chattaroy, Gilbert, Beech Creek, Delbarton and several others. Loads ready to leave the garage Monday morning from the garage were slated for Beech Creek and Breeden, with others planned to be delivered later in the day.
Members of the West Virginia National Guard Alpha Troop 1st 150 were present at the county garage, loading their trucks with water to be passed out in local communities and stated that they would be available as long as their services were needed. The National Guard has also been doing their part in removing trees and brush from the roadways, sidewalks and other locations.
“Anyone who has any emergency situation at all, they need to contact Mingo County 911 and their call will be routed to the appropriate department,” said Fletcher. “We’re trying to make sure that every individual in the county has access to water.”
Cooling centers have been opened at the Williamson City Swimming Pool and the Larry Joe Harless Center in Gilbert, with free swimming for everyone. The pool at the Laurel Lake Park was also open at no charge, but remained closed on Monday due to an electrical outage. The Delbarton Opry House is open to the public as well, and is being used as a water distribution center.
“This is the hottest temperatures we’ve had in years, and not having electricity and air conditioning has created hardships for many citizens of our county, especially the elderly or those with health conditions made worse by the heat,” stated Commissioner Baisden. “We’re hoping and praying that AEP will be successful in restoring the power in a timely manner. Our residents are suffering from the heat, and then on top of that, they’ve had a financial loss of food items that have spoiled because of no electric to run their refrigerators and freezers.”
“Finding a business that has bags of ice for sale in Mingo and Pike County is like finding a needle in a haystack. Everyone has posted signs saying they are sold out.”
“We encourage everyone to check on family members or neighbors who are elderly or not in good health, to make sure they’re alright and see if there’s anything they need,” said Commissioner Smith. “With phone service also out to a large portion of the county, they may not be able to call for help.”
As of press time on Monday, the total of WV residents still without electricity totaled more than 452,000. Areas identified within the county still affected include Gilbert, Beech Creek, Matewan, Pigeon Creek, Red Jacket, Delbarton, Lenore, Chattaroy, Borderland, Dan’s Branch, Nolan, Millers Creek, Naugatuck, Kermit, Breeden and Twelve Pole.
With weather reports for the week forecasting the possibility of thunder storms through Thursday, it is hoped that the worst is over.