Utility: Restoring power could take days in West Virginia

By John Raby, Associated Press

A utility sent helicopters to survey damage from severe thunderstorms that left tens of thousands of homes and businesses in West Virginia without power. In some hard-hit areas, residents were told it would be days before their power was restored.

Workers evaluate the scene on East Main Street in Oak Hill, W. Va., where six power poles went down after a group of powerful storms pushed their way across the state. Appalachian Power said on its website that more than 55,000 customers were without electricity late Thursday morning in southern West Virginia. That included nearly 11,000 in Fayette County and 9,000 in Kanawha County. (Rick Barbero /The Register-Herald via AP)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A utility sent helicopters to survey damage from severe thunderstorms that left tens of thousands of homes and businesses in West Virginia without power. In some hard-hit areas, residents were told it would be days before their power was restored.

Appalachian Power said on its website that more than 46,000 customers were without electricity Thursday evening in southern West Virginia. That included 7,500 in Fayette County and 7,400 in Kanawha County.

FirstEnergy said more than 8,100 customers were without service, including 1,400 in Randolph County.

Schools in all or parts of 16 of the state's 55 counties were closed Thursday because of the storms, which brought high wind gusts and dumped more than 2 inches of rain in some areas Wednesday. Some counties hit by outages already have called off classes for Friday.

In Tyler County, Middle Island Creek hit its highest crest in 20 years. By Thursday afternoon, the waters had receded enough from roads that the National Weather Service allowed a flood warning to expire in five counties.

Appalachian Power said more than 100,000 customers — or nearly one in five in West Virginia — were out of service during the height of the storm. The utility said it is dealing with broken poles, uprooted trees and downed power lines.

The utility said it was sending helicopters to survey the damage Thursday. The company estimates that 60 distribution circuits, 21 distribution stations and more than 20 transmission lines were affected by the storm.

The utility estimated that service in 10 counties would not be restored until Sunday. The company was bringing in 400 line workers from other utilities to help with repairs.

At least one church opened its doors as a warming station to residents without power, and a high school was allowing the public to use its facilities to take showers and charge their cellphones.

The state attorney general's office urged residents who are hiring companies to fix damaged homes to obtain written estimates from multiple vendors and ensure that contractors are licensed.

On the heels of the storm, forecasters predicted up to 3 inches of snow were possible in higher elevations of the state by Friday evening.

Although West Virginia sees few tornadoes every year, the state has had its share of storm problems.

Last June, flooding killed 23 people statewide and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes, businesses, schools and infrastructure. And a 2012 derecho packing hurricane-force winds left 680,000 customers statewide without power, some for as long as two weeks.

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