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Nearly 7,000 still in dark here
Crews working to restore electricity
Monday, July 2, 2012
By AMANDA BUCK - Bulletin Staff Writer
Nearly 7,000 customers remained without electricity Sunday in Henry and Patrick counties as crews continued working to restore service two days after powerful winds toppled trees and knocked out service to more than 25,000 area homes and businesses.
Electricity had been restored to all but about a half dozen homes in Martinsville by midday Sunday, roughly 36 hours after the storm left the entire city in the dark. The affected homes suffered damage that will have to be repaired before service can be restored, said Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki.
“We’re actually in great shape,” Towarnicki said Sunday evening. “We had a lot of trees down and a lot of debris in the streets, and we will work on cleaning up for several days ... but other than that, everything’s back in operating condition.”
Dale Wagoner, public safety director with Henry County, said conditions in the county were much improved, despite about 3,300 Appalachian Power Co. customers without power.
That was down from a total of about 10,000 at the peak of the outages.
“Of course the electricity is the big item, but all the critical infrastructure has been taken care of,” Wagoner said Sunday, adding that all area nursing homes and the 911 Center were back up.
Of the 3,100 Henry County customers without power Sunday, most were residential customers, although some commercial facilities remained affected, Wagoner said. He added that, based on what he learned from Appalachian, the outages were spread throughout the county.
“That’s one reason that makes it so difficult to get it back on,” he said. “It’s one line (here and there) that affects three or four customers.”
Early Sunday, parts of Oak Level Road and Philpott Drive were affected, he said, with “small pockets (of outages) scattered about” elsewhere.
Among the affected areas was Horseshoe Point Park at Philpott Lake. According to a news release, the park was closed due to the power failure and will reopen as soon as service is restored.
“We tried to keep things open, hoping that the outage would be short-lived,” said Craig “Rocky” Rockwell, Philpott Lake operations manager. “But when it was clear that this would be a long outage, we really had no choice but to close.”
Those with reservations for this coming weekend have the option of canceling or keeping their reservations in hopes that power will be restored this week, reservation coordinator Jessica Mason said in the release.
“Either way, you will get a full refund if the power outage keeps you from your reservation,” she said.
Other parks at Philpott Lake were not affected by the outage, the release said.
In Patrick County, about 3,700 customers were without power as of 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Appalachian reported.
More than half a million of the company’s customers were affected when the storm moved through the region Friday evening, bringing with it heavy rain in some areas and winds in excess of 75 miles per hour, the company said.
On Sunday, Appalachian had 1,500 workers from as far as Missouri, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi working to restore service to its customers in Virginia and West Virginia, the company said on its website.
Some service is not expected to be restored until Saturday, Appalachian said. According to the website, service is expected to be completely restored in Henry County by Thursday and in Patrick County by Friday.
Those estimates could change if significant new damage is discovered or occurs, the website said.
Severe weather remains a threat, with a 20 to 30 percent chance of storms in the area through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures also are expected to remain extreme, with a high of 97 in the forecast today and 96 on Tuesday.
Quarter-sized hail, damaging wind gusts and frequent lightning will be the main threats associated with thunderstorms that may occur this week, the weather service said. Mainly afternoon and evening storms are expected, it added.
That could make work more difficult for Appalachian, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and city crews as they continue working to clear limbs, trees and debris from roads and power lines.
All roads in Henry County had been opened by Sunday, but crews still were receiving calls reporting isolated problems, said Lisa Price Hughes, VDOT resident engineer.
“The roads are open, but we’ve got a lot of cleanup work to do,” she said, adding that clearing storm-related debris from area roads will be “a long-term project.”
To report unsafe road conditions, county residents should call VDOT at 1-800-367-7623, she said.
Hughes added that VDOT crew members, who worked overnight Friday and Saturday to clear area roads, “have been really blessed that we had no injuries.”
Henry County Fire Marshal Rodney Howell said area fire departments continued to respond Sunday to reports of limbs and trees falling against power lines and causing arcing. He did not know of any serious problems, he said.
Wagoner also did not know of any serious problems in the county Sunday, he said.
“Those that still don’t have power, I’m sure it’s aggravating,” he said. “But as a whole, we’re pleased.”
Both Wagoner and Towarnicki commended emergency workers, electric crews, the Salvation Army and others who pulled together Saturday to help get through the storm’s aftermath.
“It was a joint effort,” Towarnicki said.