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2,100 Remain Without Power, Warming Shelter Opened

By Staff | Mar 5, 2015

Situations like this are what lead to power outages. (Photo by Amy Witschey)

According to the Wetzel County Office of Emergency Management, the Red Cross has finished establishing a shelter at New Martinsville’s United Methodist Church, located behind Captain Richard’s.

According to Director Ed Sapp, there are roughly 2,100 Wetzel County citizens without power. Sapp encourages those who are out in the county who might need to use the shelter’s services to call 304-455-6960.

“We can do whatever we can do,” he noted about transporting those in need. But he added that Emergency Management Services are actually encountering some issues on emergency calls, with the road conditions. Sapp stated that EMS had to send an all-terrain-vehicle to respond to one call.

Of course, Sapp states that those who are in an emergency should call 911.

Todd Meyers of First Energy Corp states that when he arrived at work at 5:30 a.m., overall in the Mon Power service area, there were approximately 23,000 customers without power. “That number is closer to 44,000 now,” he noted. “As the snow continued to pile up, outages went up as well. It’s all related to the snow . . . What you have is snow weighing down trees. The whole tree falls or the limbs fall and come in contact with lines.”

“What people need to be ready for, is this is going to be a lengthy outage,” Meyers noted. “There are many customers who many not have power on by late Saturday night.” Meyers added, “We know with the amount of damage and difficulty navigating roads, a lot of the big roads are hard to drive on, and some of the secondary roads haven’t even been plowed yet. I’m not casting stones on anyone. It’s a very hard job and a very tough situation out there. Even getting back there to assess some of the damage and getting there to fix it, is very difficult.”

Meyers noted that First Energy had crews in the area last night and today. “Mon Power workers will work 16 hours on and eight hours off, and they will continue to work.” “First Energy is the owner of Mon Power, and (First Energy) has 10 other utility companies. There are hundreds of lineman either here or coming in from Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. There will be many other crews out there, come first light. Many of them that get here have spent the day driving, and they will eat and rest a bit.

There will be additional people out there to help. We have a large army of tree-trimming contractors. When we have storms like this, they shift over to clearing the trees.”

“This is our first big storm this year that’s hit in the more populous areas. It just started moving east across the whole state to the I-79 corridor. That’s where most of the outages are. The mountains didn’t get hit as hard, and we even have crews coming out of that area. This is sort of a reverse of normal.”

“I want to set the expectation for customers,” Meyers noted. “They need to be patient, but they need to contend with no power. If you don’t have it on now, you probably won’t have it on tonight.”

Meyers encourages those who are going to “hang in your house” to take some precautions. “Go into an interior room, wear extra clothes, and use a sleeping bag. Use a fireplace safely. For illumination, use flashlights and battery-operated lanterns, but nothing that is a propane lantern. Do not use anything that you use for camping. Don’t bring in camp stoves. Don’t bring in charcoal grills. Those can create deadly amounts of carbon monoxide.”

“Don’t use your stove to try to warm the house up. Everything that belongs outdoors, needs to stay outdoors. If you have a generator, make sure you run it in a place where fumes can’t get inside, not in garages. Make sure it is hooked up properly by a professional.”

Meyers also encourages generator-users to think of the lineman when hooking up their generator. “What we can’t control is if someone has a generator and it’s not hooked up correctly, and it’s putting electricity back on the lines.”

Furthermore, “Stay away from downed lines. A storm like this has a lot of downed wires. Assume they are energized. We will get out there and make sure they are de-energized and safe.” Meyers states that to report downed lines call 1-888-544-4877.

“It’s a very organized process we are going after,” Meyers adds, noting that First Energy will focus on larger outages first. “We work on the fixes that will bring on the largest numbers of customers first . . . And sometimes it’s not possible to get them back on, so you have to go to transmission lines and sub-stations and work the bigger stuff first. Then as that occurs, we go out and do the biggest jobs first until we just keep on working through that. Sometimes you may have a job out there that can take a number of crews to fix a number of poles and at the end of that shift, you may only get four or five customers on.”

Meyers reiterated that there are over 250 lineman and support crews on their way to the area. “Some of them are here already. They left at different times this morning.” Meyers adds that First Energy had already restored power to 20,000 customers today, but “the new outages outpaced our efforts.”

To report an outage or downed power lines, call 1-888-544-4877. In an emergency situation call 911. For questions concerning Wetzel County’s shelter, call 304-455-6960.