Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Sunday storms challenge New River Valley residents' coping skills
THE LATEST: Power updates | Closings/openings | More impact: Cox outages, water updates | Statewide | Help: Cooling centers, how to volunteer | Cleanup: Tree limbs, trash | Storm-related fatalities | Storm photos | Weather Journal | Food safety | Share your stories: Making lemonade out of lemons?
In today's paper
- Shelters offer cool havens for powerless
- A stubborn darkness [with video]
- Elder care facilities face dire challenges
- Power outages turn hot romances into hotter weddings
- Covington particularly hard hit
- Craig Co. residents pull together
- Franklin County firefighter dies after stopping to offer aid
- Tree, high speed factors in Montgomery Co. fatality
- Couple killed in house fire had long ties in Big Island
- Candle cited as cause of Roanoke house fire
- Visit the Storefront blog to list which stores are open
- Power outage puts life's questions in perspective, columnist Dan Casey says
Thunderstorms and strong winds blew through the New River Valley again Sunday night, complicating recovery from Friday night’s storms.
Volunteer fire and rescue departments were busy this weekend responding to brush fires sparked by downed power lines and people needing care for health problems exacerbated by heat. Public works crews and volunteers have been working to clear roads of fallen trees and debris, particularly in the more rural areas of the county.
Meanwhile, some churches have opened their doors to offer services, such as showers.
Downed trees from weekend storms caused a lot of devastation in heavily wooded Giles County this weekend, but County Administrator Chris McKlarney said tough people live in the area’s hills and hollows, and they have stepped in to help family and friends.
Appalachian Power Co. officials have worked with the county to get most primary infrastructure, such as water pumping stations back online quickly, McKlarney said.
Two pump stations remained down this afternoon, but crews trucked water to the distribution tanks, so residents wouldn’t go without, he said.
Many residents brought their chain saws to help county workers clear roads of downed trees and debris. Some churches have pitched in by opening bathing facilities and offering a full range of services to residents.
“It’s been a real volunteer effort,” McKlarney said.
But many people, particularly those who live in isolated areas, remain without power. McKlarney said he thinks electricity will be out to some homes into the weekend or beyond.
According to Appalachian, 4,636 of Giles County’s 17,000 residents were without electricity at 12:30 p.m. Monday, up from 4,487 before Sunday’s storms.
Anyone needing information on recovery services, including cooling shelter, may call the Giles County Sheriff’s Office at 921-3842. Residents will also receive periodic updates through the county’s automated “red alert” phone messaging system, McKlarney said.
Floyd County saw trees and power lines damaged Sunday, leading to more blocked roads and electricity outages. But county residents endured the inconveniences without major difficulty, Sheriff Shannon Zeman said Monday.
“A lot of people here know how to live under these circumstances,” Zeman said.
Rural people, more than most, tend to keep emergency generators and store water and supplies.
Zeman knew of one storm-related injury, which was suffered by a woman at the 2012 Relay for Life at Floyd County High School, a late-night fundraiser that was interrupted by the Friday night storm. Details of the injury were not available.
The storm “caught a lot of people off guard,” Zeman said, noting that Floyd was alive with its usual Friday night music crowds when the wind started to howl. The sheriff’s office received 300 calls during the storm and its aftermath, the sheriff said.
Greg Shortt, who was out Monday sawing up a tree limb, said he was among hundreds of people at the relay. The crowd took shelter in the school gym, he said.
“Thankfully, people were blessed there wasn’t a lot more damage or a lot more hurt,” Shortt said.
Elvin Ingram, whose family operates G.J. Ingram and Sons country store and a dairy farm on Floyd Highway, said the family used a generator Saturday to power the milking machine for 100 cows.
“We’ve done this lots of times before,” he said.
In another show of coping skills, Linda Keith parked her van outside Floyd County High School on Monday to borrow its Internet signal. Keith found her electricity and home Internet access have been spotty since the storm, but she needed to be online to do homework. She is earning a psychology degree online from the University of Arizona, she said.
About 2,200 of Floyd’s 15,300 residents lacked power Monday, up from 1,762 before Sunday’s storms.
Sunday’s storm frustrated recovery efforts in Pulaski County, too, knocking out power to Pulaski County Community Hospital until about 11:30 a.m. Monday, Assistant County Administrator Robert Hiss said.
Some public schools where officials had set up cooling centers for residents lost power and air conditioning, so a new shelter was opened in Dublin at New River Community College’s Edwards Hall.
“We’re going to staff it overnight if people need that,” Hiss said Monday.
Hot meals will be provided at the shelter today for lunch and dinner.
An emergency operations center has been set up at the Pulaski County government building, and a hotline has been established for county residents seeking information about county recovery services at 994-2602, Hiss said.
More than 8,000 of Pulaski County’s 35,000 residents were without power Monday, up from 4,803 Sunday, according to Appalachian’s website.
In Montgomery County, 10,173 residential customers were without electricity Monday, down from 11,530 Sunday night.
Some off-campus Virginia Tech offices remained without power Monday, and crews worked to clear downed trees and brush. But no structural damage to Tech facilities was reported, university spokesman Mark Owczarski wrote in an email.
Some of Tech’s power comes from Virginia Tech Electric service, which also provides power to parts of Blacksburg. VT Electric resells some power from Appalachian.
One large tree was uprooted at Radford University, but no other damage or scheduling disruptions were reported Monday, spokeswoman Deanne Estrada said.