For thousands of Eastern Panhandle residents still without electricity following last Friday's severe storms, the wait may be nearing an end.
It's estimated that power will be fully restored in Berkeley County by late Thursday and by midday Wednesday in Morgan County, according to an alert Tuesday afternoon on FirstEnergy's storm center website.
No restoration time was posted for Jefferson County, which as of 2:54 p.m. Tuesday had the most customers without power in the Eastern Panhandle - about 3,500 - according to the company's website.
About 2,940 Berkeley County customers and approximately 830 in Morgan County were still without electricity, according to the website.
Water and ice are available at Martin's grocery store locations in Charles Town, W.Va., and Martinsburg, W.Va. as well as three Hagerstown locations, the company announced.
The Jefferson County Health Department was to distribute water at T.A. Lowery Elementary School, 103 Shenandoah Junction Boulevard, Shenandoah Junction, beginning at 1 p.m. Tuesday and all day at the health department office at 1948 Wiltshire Road, Charles Town. For information, call 304-728-8416 or 304=279-4858.
A helping hand
Enduring yet another hot day in Martinsburg without power Monday afternoon, Mabel Humes, 94, remembered a time when air conditioning wasn’t available to stifle the summer heat.
“We just roasted,” Humes said, smiling.
While Humes and her daughter, Linda Humes, were among thousands still without power in the wake of Friday’s massive storm, they didn’t have to roast this time.
Thank to the generosity of her Greenbriar Road neighbors, Mabel Humes was able to keep her refrigerator running with a small generator, which also powered a fan to keep the humid air moving in her living room.
Her “guardian angels” also brought over ice, sandwiches and milkshakes.
“They’ve been great, wonderful,” said Mabel Humes before power was restored at her home just before 2 p.m.
Linda Humes, who is her mother’s caretaker, said she has been “making the best of it” since the fast-moving storm downed trees, snapped utility poles, ripped down power lines and left them in the dark.
FirstEnergy spokesman Scott Surgeoner said the storm knocked more than 70 transmission lines out of service in the utility’s West Virginia service area.
Barbara Humes, who was visiting her mother and sister Monday from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., said her home was among a small group that have also been without power since Friday. Neighbors helped save her frozen food, she said.
“We haven’t seen any power people,” Humes said of utility crews.
Serving water, conserving water
Harpers Ferry Mayor Joe Anderson said Monday in a news release that officials are working diligently to install a temporary solution to the loss of power at the water-treatment plant, but advised residents served by Harpers Ferry Water Works to observe strict water-conservation methods.
“Water stores are expected to be depleted around midday (Tuesday) if a generator cannot be installed,” Anderson said. “The more conservative we all are, the longer our water supplies should last.”
State public health officials, meanwhile, issued a boil-water advisory for the entire state, noting the power outages put many water supplies at risk. On Tuesday, officials with the Berkeley County Public Service Water District and the cities of Martinsburg and Charles Town said their public water customers were exempt from the advisory.
Surgeoner said Monday that every available FirstEnergy crew had been called in and contractors also have joined in an around-the-clock effort to restore service. Crews have traveled from as far away as Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma, officials said Monday.
“You can’t staff year-round for an event like the one we had Friday night,” Surgeoner said.
The company had ice hauled in from Alabama to the Martinsburg Lowe’s store along Apple Harvest Drive for residents in need of relief, and another truck carrying water was due to arrive there from Ohio by 2 p.m., but had yet to arrive as of 4 p.m., officials manning the relief station said.
The relief station was to remain in place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. while power restoration was under way, FirstEnergy said on its website.
Aletha Smith of Martinsburg, who was waiting for water to arrive, said she was able to find some relief at the cafe in Martin’s grocery store since her apartment in the 700 block of West Burke Street was left without power Friday night.
“I’ve always shopped at Martin’s, but I’ve never been to the cafe,” Smith said, smiling.
Paul Turner, who picked up two bags of ice at the relief station in the Lowe’s parking lot, said he didn’t lose power for an extended period of time until Monday.
“I don’t think that we’ll be down that long,” Turner said.
Over the weekend, Turner said he opened his freezer to be filled with food belonging to others who lost power.
“We’re a lot better off than most people,” Turner said.
Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon said Monday that a relatively small amount of food in school freezers was lost due to the power outage, but school facilities were not otherwise damaged by the storm. A number of trees were lost and a power line was down at Rosemont Elementary School, which, along with Winchester Avenue Elementary, were the last schools to have power restored over the weekend, according to Arvon. Hedgesville High was opened as a relief station.
In Jefferson County, the county’s Emergency Operations Center opened two lines for the public to report nonemergencies only. The phone numbers are 304-728-6345 and 304-725-5001.
Jennifer D. Maggio, spokesperson for the county’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said Monday that calls for assistance had “slightly” dwindled.
Cooling stations in the county will be available the rest of the week, officials said.
- Jefferson County Health Department, 1948 Wiltshire Road, Kearneysville, W.Va., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. all week, including July 4.
- Sam Michaels Park, 1102 Job Corps Road, Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., open gym and showers
- Camp Hill United Methodist Church, 601 E. Washington St., Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
- Community Ministries (homeless shelter only), 238 W. Washington St., Charles Town, W.Va.
- St. Andrew's Mountain Community Center, stone building on the corner of W.Va. 9 and Mission Road, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
While the primary concern was restoring power and repairing utility lines, a permanent fix is needed for the tin roof that came off on the Jefferson County Commission office building in Friday night’s storm, according to Barb Miller, Jefferson County’s director for homeland security and emergency management.
Emergency repairs were done on the roof for the weekend, Miller said.
Berkeley County government facilities, other than some computers damaged by power fluctuations, were not damaged, Deputy County Administrator Alan Davis said.
‘Back in the 1800s’
Dave Michael, Miller’s counterpart in Morgan County, said the storm left the entire town of Paw Paw without any telephone or power service until about 2 p.m. Sunday.
“They were (living) back in the 1800s for a couple days,” Michael said.
The southeastern area of the county was hit hardest by the storm and the county has requested National Guard health and wellness teams to check on residents.
A help line — 304-867-3133 — has been established at the courthouse for people to call for bottled water and shelter, Michael said.
Michael said the county was fortunate that the Berkeley Springs, W.Va., area, the most populated area, only lost power for a couple of hours.
The county’s fire departments worked immediately after the storm for four to five hours to clear public roads of fallen trees in their response areas, Michael said.
While operations at all city facilities had been restored as of 4 p.m. Monday, Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin urged motorists to continue to exercise caution at intersections where traffic signals were not operating.
“Be careful, slow down,” Baldwin said.
Tree debris placed curbside will be picked up over the next few weeks, Baldwin said.