By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Just as progress was being made to restore power to the nearly 7,500 local customers who lost service in Friday’s storms, two more rounds of storms Sunday foiled those efforts.
As of 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Appalachian Power Co. was reporting just over 4,803 customers in the county still without service. However, outages had almost doubled to 8,117 customers as of noon Monday. By 9:30 p.m., that figure had been reduced to just under 6,000.
As a result of this setback, APCo is now estimating it could be Friday evening before all power is restored in Pulaski County. Earlier estimates had been Wednesday.
These new power outages also hampered efforts to consolidate the county’s cooling centers at Pulaski Elementary School on Monday. With power service knocked out to the school by Sunday night’s storm, the center had to be moved to New River Community College’s Edwards Hall.
Assistant Pulaski County Administrator Robert Hiss said Social Services employees and Red Cross volunteers are staffing the shelter for overnight accommodations. Meals were to be provided starting Monday night, with lunch to be served at noon today and dinner at 6 p.m.
Hiss said residents using the shelter are asked to bring basic living amenities to make their stay more comfortable. No pets are allowed at the shelter.
To assist those with disposal of debris from downed trees, Pulaski County Public Service Authority has extended the hours at its drop sites from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. all week. The drop centers are on Dora Highway in Pulaski, Bagging Plant Road in Dublin, and off Route 114 next to the wastewater treatment plant in Fairlawn.
Debris also can be taken to the regional landfill on Route 100. Hiss said the PSA is paying for the first four tons of waste dropped off at the landfill.
Those who are looking for a break from the heat or the monotony of no electrical service can stop by Pulaski County’s libraries in Dublin and Pulaski to use a computer or read a book in comfort. The Pulaski library is on Third Street in northwest Pulaski and Dublin’s is on Giles Avenue.
The county is in the process of compiling information on local structural damage for reporting purposes only. To report structural damage, request assistance or seek additional information, call 994-2602 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
To report a power outage or check the status of an outage, call APCo at 800-956-4237.
According to APCo, assessments of damage in Virginia and West Virginia are ongoing. It is estimated more than 50 substations have been taken out of service.
“Our transmission system has been patrolled by helicopter and damage is mostly due to numerous spans of downed power lines and fallen trees,” states a Monday update from APCo. “Line workers are continuing to clear known safety hazards and working to repair outages that affect critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and water and sewer stations.”
APCo described Friday night’s storm as being “similar to or even greater than a hurricane, but without advance warning.” It says the storm was part of a “massive straight-line wind storm that traveled close to 700 miles in 10 hours, devastating 10 states and leaving more than 4.3 million customers without electric service.”
The company estimated Monday that power restoration will be ongoing “for at least the next seven days” in Virginia and West Virginia as a result of Sunday’s storms, which took out power to an additional 30,000 customers system-wide.
“Because there are several million people throughout the country without power, it has been more difficult to find outside assistance,” the Monday evening update states.
The company reports that more than 2,000 company and contracted workers, who are involved with tree removal, damage assessment and line maintenance, are part of the restoration effort.
Help has been brought in from Texas, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Georgia.
“We have crews working in every district in our service territory, including rural and urban areas,” states the update.
In addition to power restoration, the storm recovery also involves the removal of trees and other debris from roads.
According to Virginia Department of Transportation, nearly 250 roads, mostly secondary and neighborhood streets, were impacted statewide by downed trees and utility lines.
For more information on road conditions, visit www.511Virginia.org. To report a road problem, call VDOT’s Customer Service Center at 800-367-7623.
The storms, heat and power outages also resulted in an “influx of patients” at area hospitals, according to LewisGale Regional Health System.
“Additional physicians and staff were brought in to handle the increased demand,” states a press release from the health system. It reports that between Saturday and Sunday 120 patients were treated at LewisGale Hospital – Pulaski.
“All four of our hospitals have been working together to meet the increased demand for services and to ensure patients throughout the region get the care they need during this challenging time,” said Victor E. Giovanetti, LewisGale Regional Health System president.