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Sick, elderly without power in St. Albans neighborhood

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kelly Plymale has been without electricity since power went out all over the Eastern United States on June 29.

Plymale, who is supposed to be on oxygen 24 hours a day, cannot use her breathing machine when she tries to sleep in her stifling St. Albans apartment. She ran out of oxygen days ago.

"I always thought, when there was an emergency, that the elderly people and the sick would be a priority," said Kathy Simpson, Plymale's in-home health nurse, "but it just didn't work that way -- or they just had so many people who need help they can't get to all of it."

Plymale lives on Knox Avenue, in one of about 10 houses without power in the Ordnance Park neighborhood. St. Albans City Councilman Desper Lemon said everyone else in the area had electricity restored on Wednesday, but a tangle of fallen trees took out power lines and a transformer in part of the neighborhood. The damage has yet to be repaired.

Lemon said several of the people without electricity are elderly and have major health problems. Lemon ran an extension cord across Forrestal Avenue from his house to the home of an 83-year-old neighbor, so he can at least run a couple of fans to try to keep cool.

Lemon's next-door neighbor ran an extension cord across the street to Paul Neece, who is caring for his aged parents, Linda and Larry Neece.

Paul Neece said his mother has been disabled for years, and is unable to move to a cooling station or emergency shelter.

"She's paralyzed on one side and needs help moving around," he said. "It's a lot of work just to help her move around."

One street over, on Knox, Plymale has been suffering temperatures of 90 degrees and higher without oxygen, without air conditioning, and with only what food and water neighbors and friends can bring her.

"It's hard to breathe," she said. "I've just been praying to God to survive this heat."

Plymale hasn't slept or eaten much -- it's too hot to do either. Most of her energy has been spent just trying to keep cool.

"The minute you get out of a cold shower," she said, "the heat just hits you in the face."

Plymale said she also is unable to go to a shelter. Even if she had transportation to get there, she can't leave her dog alone. She doubts she can get up and down to sleep on a cot. And with COPD, she fears her compromised immune system will cause her to get sick if she's around a lot of other people.

Plymale said she has seen people in a couple of trucks in the neighborhood looking at the fallen trees but that, so far, nothing has been done to remove the twisted branches.

Lemon doesn't think it's the power company's fault that the lines are tangled in a mass of trees between streets. The trees are on private property, and are technically the responsibility of the property owners.

"I've been begging these property owners to do something about their trees," Lemon said.

Now that they're down, the trees will have to be cleaned up before electricity can be restored. Lemon hopes it's sooner rather than later.

Plymale will stick it out until then. Friends and neighbors have been bringing her food, water, and ice to try to keep cool.

"The neighbors have been good to me," she said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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