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Area deals with aftermath of yet another storm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On a day when they hoped to have much of the power restored from the massive June 29 windstorm that swept through the area, local officials and residents were dealing with the impact of another storm that rolled through on Sunday.

Cooling stations were open again throughout Kanawha County on Monday, after Sunday's violent thunderstorm knocked out electricity to tens of thousands of people throughout the region, many who had just seen power restored after the major June 29 derecho.

According to the Appalachian Power website, about 40,000 customers remained without power as of 10 p.m. Monday. That included more than 11,750 in Kanawha County, where County Manager Jennifer Sayre said the county was again one of the areas hardest-hit by Sunday's storm.

Sayre said power company officials estimated it would be early Tuesday before power is again restored.

By midday Sunday, before the thunderstorm swept through the Kanawha Valley, power had been restored to all but about 7,000 Kanawha County homes and businesses.

"It looks like most of the outages are in the eastern part of the county and the northern part," Sayre said. "It looks like the western part is fine. They lost power briefly but it came back on."

Sayre said power had been restored to part of the Elkview area, including Pinch Elementary School, where county officials continued to operate an ice and water distribution center Monday.

Overnight shelters remained open Monday night at Dupont Middle School and the King Center on Donnally Street in Charleston.

Spoiled food drop-off centers will be open Tuesday behind the Cabin Creek Go-Mart, at Aldersgate United Methodist Church on Sissonville Drive, at the Clendenin Park and Ride and at Elkview Middle School.  

The planned distribution of farmers' market vouchers for senior citizens at the Capitol Market on Monday was postponed.

Traffic lights were out throughout Kanawha City, and county officials reminded drivers to treat any intersection where lights are out as a four-way stop.

The Kanawha City Community Center and pool remain closed following the Sunday storm, Charleston Parks & Recreation Director John Charnock said.

Coupled with the season-long closure of the pool at the North Charleston Community Center and continued storm-related closure of the Cato Park pool, the only city pool open Monday was at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, he said.

"Yesterday during the storm we lost one leg of power, and later on it all went off, so we're without power at Kanawha City," Charnock said Monday. "The Kanawha City center is closed and the pool is closed because we can't run the pumps. Hopefully power will be restored soon.

"What we had to do last night was move our relief center from Kanawha City to the King Center. We had 16 to 18 overnight guests." They will be staying at the King Center until further notice.

The Cato Park pool, meanwhile, remains closed. "We lost power [during the] June 29 storm and it hasn't been restored yet," Charnock said. "Once it gets restored we'll need a one- to two-day leeway to get the water corrected. It's almost the same cycle as starting up. If the power came on today we could not open the pool Tuesday."

Charnock said he's reported the problem to Appalachian Power. "That's about the best you can do. Cato Park is one customer. They're looking for the biggest bang for the buck. I understand. You'd rather get people back in their homes than get a pool back."

Building Commissioner Tony Harmon warned Charleston residents to be wary of non-registered and out-of-state contractors who are already in town, trying to capitalize on the recent storms. Legitimate contractors should be registered with both the city and the state, Harmon said. For information or to check licenses, call the city Building Department at 304-348-6833.

About 1,030 customers in Putnam County remained without power at 10 p.m. Monday. The majority of customers have been without electricity since the June 29 storm that wiped out power to hundreds of thousands.

Most areas still without power in Putnam are rural ones, said Frank Chapman, director of the county's emergency management office.

Areas along W.Va. 34, Red House Hill, Liberty and Confidence have been without power for nearly 11 days, Chapman said.

"There are right-of-ways in rural areas where you can't even see power lines, because of downed trees," Chapman said. "People have to be patient and understand these guys really have a job on their hands -- they're having to put up miles of lines back up."

In the meantime, most cooling stations in Putnam have stopped operating because of low attendance, according to Chapman.

The YMCA in Scott Depot is still open for people who need to cool off or take a shower.

About 6,000 people were without power in Fayette County. The hardest hit areas are Danese, Layland and Gauley Bridge, according to a news release issued by the Fayette County Commission.

Full service shelters are set up at First Church of God in Fayetteville and the Montgomery Catholic Church.

For people needing water, Chapman said to call the county's non-emergency line at 304-586-0247.

West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan said power was lost at the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant in Charleston during severe thunderstorms on Sunday. 

"West Virginia American Water immediately enacted contingency plans, and Appalachian Power crews worked quickly to repair a backup feed substation and switch the facility over to this backup circuit," Jordan said. "The plant was back in full operation in less than three hours, and this temporary outage had no affect on water quality or water service to any customer."

On Monday afternoon, water company officials lifted a precautionary boil-water advisory for those customers in Kanawha, Boone and Putnam counties whose water service had been fully restored by Monday. 

According to the National Weather forecast office in Charleston, clearer, drier conditions are expected for the next several days north of a line that extends from Huntington to Charleston. South of that line, showers are expected to continue, but overall temperatures will be much more pleasant, with highs throughout the week generally in the upper 70s to mid-80s.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va, said Monday he's seen tight family budgets suffer big hits because of storm recovery and he's urged President Obama to expand federal efforts to help West Virginians recover.

State and local governments are primarily responsible for recovery efforts. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can also provide loans and grants for the uninsured needs of businesses, communities, and individuals. But federal disaster relief does not become available until the president issues "a major disaster declaration," Rahall said.

Rahall said he spoke directly with Obama last Friday, pointing out that "for so many to lose power during such extreme heat, and to be without power for so long, especially for those on fixed incomes who have little or no money to buy food, supplies or even ice ... warrants special attention."

@tag:Staff writers Kate White, Jim Balow and Rusty Marks contributed. Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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