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A new state motto

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Got power?"

It is the new state motto.

Those who do have power cautiously admit their good fortune. Those who don't grit their teeth and face whatever the next chore is that must be done to keep going.

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The storm brought with it some ominous worries but it also had some silver linings. Among the worries: The state's economy.

We were already reading about layoffs caused by the weakening coal market, a slowdown in drilling for natural gas because of low prices, and increasing competition from neighboring states for gambling revenue.

Adding the storm to that mix can't be good. Some portions of the state came to a standstill. I live fairly close to CSX's east-west mainline that runs through Charleston and I didn't hear or see a train for days.

Until we get more definitive reports, it's hard to guess how many people have had to miss some work. Productivity surely took a hit. After all, it's hard to perform at your peak if home life is reduced to cooking on a camp stove, hauling gasoline and trying to sleep in an 84-degree house.

Reliable numbers are only beginning to trickle in. State Farm, which insures more homeowners and auto owners in the state than any other company, said that as of Tuesday, it had received about 1,980 property claims and 440 auto claims in West Virginia. On Thursday the number of property claims had risen to 2,600 and the number of auto claims had increased to 720.

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With each passing day it becomes more obvious that some folks -- especially those who had not previously lived through a disaster -- are having difficulty telling the difference between needs and wants.

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Without the Internet, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Is it true that air conditioning can only make a 9-degree difference in your house? Is it true that putting nearly depleted batteries in the refrigerator helps recharge them?

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Among the storm's silver linings: The remarkable lack of fatalities. Also:

* July 4 was a holiday for most folks and many mining operations were already scheduled to be down because of the traditional miners' holiday. Therefore, economic activity would have been below normal last week, anyway.

* As the power companies bring more customers back online, the utilities surely are burning more coal to keep air conditioners running.

* There are countless examples of people and companies helping each other. Many folks are reconnecting with neighbors by sharing resources.

My neighborhood is wrapping up a T-shirt slogan contest. My entry: "We survived the storm of 2012 (but we aren't bragging about it)."

 


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