BOONE COUNTY, W.Va. — Last week, all across Boone County the sounds of chainsaws and generators could be heard, as power companies and local residents attempted to recover from one of the worst storms in recent memory.
Although power has been restored to most in Boone County, a large amount of Boone County residents went without power for most of last week in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
At one point the number of Boone County customers without power was 10,489 of 12,938, or 81.1 percent of all customers in the county. Some parts of the county still had downed power lines and power was being kept on by power company generators.
Shelters opened in Boone County, including the Fountain of Life Church in Rock Creek; Racine Fire Department; Morrisvale Community Center; Orgas Community Center; and the Madison Memorial Building for those without heat and Boone Memorial Hospital had a disaster plan in place to also assist county residents.
Meanwhile, Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, along with Congressman Nick Rahall, urged the President to approve Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s request that federal disaster assistance be made available to help West Virginia recover from this week’s storm.
Last week, the governor declared a state of emergency for the entire state and President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in West Virginia, which authorized FEMA to provide emergency protective measures for all counties in West Virginia.
Rockefeller, Manchin and Rahall agreed with the Governor’s request for additional measures, which include an expedited Major Disaster Declaration. The request is for Individual Assistance for six counties (Fayette, Nicholas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, and Webster); and Public Assistance for 21 counties (Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Clay, Fayette, Grant, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Lewis, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur, Webster, and Wyoming.)
“The devastation in some areas of our state is extraordinary,” Rockefeller said. “And while I’m very pleased the President acted quickly in including West Virginia in the emergency disaster declaration, we need more help beyond clearing roads. That’s why this Major Disaster Declaration is so important. Thousands of West Virginians were impacted by this storm, and I’m fighting to make sure every possible federal resource is available in the days and weeks ahead.”
“Incredibly, this is our state’s fourth disaster request this year. This brutal year has taken a significant economic toll on our families and businesses, not to mention the emotional distress and heartbreak so many have endured,” said Rahall, top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee which holds jurisdiction over FEMA. “Having toured several counties and spoken with multiple state and local officials about the critical and urgent need for assistance in clearing our roads and restoring electrical power and communications, I will continue to work with the rest of the Congressional Delegation and push hard to expedite our State’s disaster assistance request.”
Gov. Tomblin, Senator Manchin and Congressman Rahall stopped by the Boone County Operations Center last week to speak with local emergency management officials and residents, and also continued to access damages. The men updated the county on what they and others were doing to help the county and state recover from the storm.
“We’re making progress, but I understand when it’s your power that’s off or your road that’s closed, it can be very frustrating. I ask for your continued patience as local, state, and federal agencies—as well as utility crews—continue to work around the clock to get utilities restored and roads open,” Tomblin said.
“As I’ve toured some of the hardest-hit areas of our state with Governor Tomblin, Congressman Rahall and the National Guard, it’s clear that we need additional federal aid to fully recover from this major disaster,” Senator Manchin said. “We’re still trying to reach some mountain areas that have been inaccessible because of the heavy snowfall, and tens of thousands of West Virginians are still without power. Our message is: Help is on the way. I fully support this request for a Major Disaster Declaration, and I will work with the rest of our Congressional delegation and the Administration to make sure that this request is expedited.”
Manchin also met with federal officials on Saturday.
“I truly thank my friend Janet Napolitano for everything she and this administration have done to make sure that the people of West Virginia get the help we need to recover from this storm. She has worked hard to make sure that we’ve received anything we’ve asked for: more than a million liters of water, more than a million MREs, chainsaw crews and generators,” Senator Manchin added. “This is the kind of storm that will take months, not days to recover from, and I appreciate the opportunity to brief the Secretary on the damage and our needs in the future. After traveling around the state for the past several days, I’ve seen the devastation firsthand, but I’ve also seen the determination and resilience from our first responders – as well as the families whose lives were changed because of this storm. I know that West Virginia will come back stronger from this storm by working together, like we always do.”
“Two days ago, I toured Fayette, Nicholas and Raleigh Counties and witnessed firsthand the response and recovery operations deployed to help our citizens. We continue to have extreme and urgent situations with pressing need for speedy action,” said Rahall. “This brutal year has taken a significant economic toll on our families and businesses, not to mention the emotional distress and heartbreak so many have endured. I have spoken with multiple state, county and local officials and I will continue to push hard at the Federal level to expedite our State’s disaster assistance request to help everyone who is struggling in this aftermath get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Boone County residents also reported loss of cell phone service, landline telephone service, cable television services and home Internet services.
It could be weeks before the state fully recovers from the storm.
AccuWeather.com reports Hurricane Sandy may turn out to be the most expensive storm to hit the U.S. — causing damage to 15 states and power outages to over 8 million people — yet the National Hurricane Center did not issue hurricane warnings north of North Carolina.
Meanwhile, The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) announced that it is donating $10,000 to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
A $5,000 donation is going to the American Red Cross for disaster relief in the devastated communities along the Atlantic coast that took a direct hit from Sandy, and another $5,000 donation was made to the Mountaineer Food Bank to help that organization provide assistance to local food banks in particularly hard-hit areas of West Virginia.
“The images of devastation all across the eastern United States are heartbreaking,” said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts. “Millions of people have lost everything they have. Millions more remain without power.
“Our brother and sister first-responders-police, firefighters, EMTs and other state and municipal workers-are giving of themselves night and day, often when their own homes are destroyed and their own families are displaced,” Roberts said. “Even though our membership is far removed from the Atlantic coast, we wanted to do something to help.
“The overwhelming snowfall in the mountains of West Virginia caused severe and lasting power outages for tens of thousands closer to the coalfields, including many of our own members,” Roberts said. “For those who can’t get to work, or are retired on fixed incomes and who have lost all their perishable food, local food banks are a critical lifeline. The Mountaineer Food Bank helps to supply food and other goods to these local food banks.
“In addition to these direct donations, we are encouraging our members to donate as well,” Roberts said. “Whether it be a financial donation, a blood donation or an in-kind donation, our fellow citizens need help now, and I urge everyone to take a few moments to do their part. Someday, it may be your turn to need this kind of help.”