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Storm: 'Things are looking a lot better' in Nicholas

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SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. -- With no power and nearly 4 feet of snow blocking her road and drifting against her Craigsville home, Maggie Selman decided Wednesday that enough was enough and called for help.

It arrived a short time later in the form of a West Virginia National Guard search-and-extraction team.

"My neighbor got a farm tractor stuck twice trying to plow me out, but they got right down to my house and drove me and Ginger into Summersville in a Humvee."

Once in Summersville, Ginger -- Selman's part-Chihuahua, part-Jack Russell terrier, part-West Virginia brown dog companion -- took shelter in a pet shop. A few blocks away, Selman joined dozens of other Hurricane Sandy refugees being fed and housed in the Family Life Center of Summersville Baptist Church, where she remained Friday.

"I've gotten such good treatment here," said Selman, a former "Rosie the Riveter," who left her Nicholas County home to work in an Akron aircraft factory during World War II. "I could get used to people waiting on me like this," she added with a smile, "but I hear the power came back on today at my house, and I'm anxious to get Ginger and go home."

Lt. Col. Yancy Short, the leader of a five-person medical team from Charleston's 130th Airlift Wing, agreed to fulfill Selman's wish.

"I just need to make sure the power's on and your house is OK, and then we'll go," Short said.

"He's a good friend," Selman said of Short.

In fact, Short is a man of many roles, all of which come in handy during the current storm emergency. When he's not serving with the Air National Guard, Short is a Summersville surgeon and a Nicholas County commissioner.

"He's also a living GPS unit for Nicholas County," said Master Sgt. Jason Young of Cross Lanes, a member of his medical team.

Two days after Short and his team completed a recertification training exercise at Camp Dawson last weekend, they were called to active duty for storm relief in Nicholas County. Similar five-person medical teams have been assigned to Randolph and Preston counties to work with other search-and-extraction teams.

Late Wednesday, Short's team was part of a National Guard search-and-extraction crew that evacuated a snow-marooned woman with pulmonary problems from a remote area near Quinwood.

"There was probably 4 1/2 feet of snow on the ground and the roads in the area hadn't been plowed," Short said. "We met up with the EMS people at Nettie, and then we followed them and a [Division of] Highways grader that had been brought in to cut what turned out to be about a five-mile road to her home. It was cool to see everyone working in unison to get her to safety and some oxygen."

On Friday, search-and-extraction crews spent much of the day examining schools for possible signs of structural damage prior to their eventual reopening. Many of the schools also will serve as polling places during Tuesday's General Election.

"So far, we've had more than 30 structure collapses due to heavy snow, and 25 homes with trees on or through them," said Nicholas County Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Carla Hennessey. Fortunately, she said, no storm-related deaths or serious injuries have been reported in the county.

The National Guard and other personnel helped remove an airplane from a partially collapsed hangar at Summersville Airport on Friday.

In Craigsville, state Sen. Douglas Facemire, D-Braxton, watched as structural engineers inspected the interior of his snow-collapsed Craigsville Foodland grocery store, one of 10 in a chain he and his family own.

Facemire said the store is beyond repair, and that he plans to build and open a new Foodland on adjacent property. He said he had been thinking about upgrading the existing store before Sandy's snowfall hit.

"This just sped up the process," he said.

While Highways crews have cleared snow and fallen trees from most major roads in the county, many secondary roads remain blocked.

"There are a lot of health and welfare calls we still need to make," Hennessey said.

A West Virginia Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter was scheduled to drop supplies of food and water to snow-stranded families in the Hunter's Haven area above the Richwood golf course Friday afternoon, she said.

About 60 percent of Nicholas County remained without power Friday. Among nonresidential customers affected by the outage were two public service district water plants, leaving hundreds of people without water, in addition to power, in the Tioga and Fenwick areas.

"We need to get permanent generators installed at all of our PSD plants, so that there will be no interruptions in service," Hennessey said.

"That's something I'll continue to work on in my role as county commissioner," Short added.

Elsewhere in Nicholas County, National Guard personnel delivered drinking water and ready-to-eat food packages to volunteer fire departments for distribution to residents needing it.

"We're starting to see shingles on the roofs and roads without snow on them," Short said. "Things are looking a lot better than they did a few days ago."

Back at the emergency shelter in Summersville, Red Cross volunteer Roger Moore began to prepare dinner for an unknown number of storm refugees. Twenty-six people spent the night in the shelter Thursday.

Moore and his wife, Sharon, the manager of the Summersville shelter, have followed the paths of Hurricanes Ike, Irene and now Sandy to work in Red Cross emergency centers in four states.

"Of all the shelters where we've volunteered in the last couple of years," he said, "these are the nicest people we've worked with."

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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