Severe Weather Strikes Again - @

Severe Weather Strikes Again

Destructive winds turn deadly; wall collapses at McDowell County gym


| Friday, February 13, 2009

MCDOWELL COUNTY, W.V. -- Severe thunderstorms knocked out power to more than 150,000 people in West Virginia early Wednesday night.

At least one person died when strong winds caused a school gym to collapse.

McDowell County Office of Emergency Management shift supervisor Allen Archer says the collapse occurred at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Twin Branch Christian Academy in Davy.

The Associated Press reported the roof collapsed during a wake.

Authorities were not releasing any more information on the victim, but Archer said no one else was hurt.

Storms started rolling into the state, east into Cabell County, about 5 p.m. and reached Charleston about an hour later.

Kanawha County emergency dispatchers were busy all night fielding calls from residents concerning fallen trees, downed power lines and broken utility poles.

"There are trees down everywhere," a Kanawha Metro 911 dispatcher said shortly after 6 p.m. "We've got at least 20 pending calls with lines and trees down all over Charleston and the rest of the county."

Wind gusts up to 60 mph accompanied the storms. Yeager Airport reported a gust of wind that registered 63 mph during the storm.

The worst of the weather rolled through Charleston just before 6 p.m., said David Marsalek, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

By 11 p.m., crews were working to restore power to 16,349 customers in Kanawha County. That's more than 15 percent of 105,547 total customers in the county.

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper said residents in several areas suffered major property damage.

A family in Chesapeake lost their porch to the high winds.

A Davis Creek home suffered heavy damage when part of the roof was blown off.

In Kanawha City, a tree fell onto a Noyes Avenue house and blocked the front door. No one was injured and the occupants escaped through the back door.

Trees also were down all across Charleston, blocking traffic and taking down power lines.

A large tree blocked Loudon Heights Road near Connell Road, forcing police to redirect traffic.

On Twilight Drive, an ambulance crew was sent to check on a man who had slipped. Dispatchers warned paramedics that live wires were on the ground because a tree had fallen near his home.

Dispatchers in Putnam County also reported trees down throughout the county, where 4,660 of 27,294 customers were without service at 11 p.m.

More than 90,000 of Appalachian Power's customers in southern West Virginia were without power Wednesday night.

That's about one in every five of the utility's customers.

Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said the number of customers who lost power during Wednesday evening's high winds nearly doubled the number who lost electricity during the January ice storms.

Moye said 20,000 lost power in one 90-minute period Wednesday night.

"It's difficult to tell what we're looking at with this storm," Moye said. "Once the storm is over in all the areas affected we'll be able to bring resources in to repair the lines."

Strong winds were expected to continue through 6 a.m. today.

Appalachian Power already was planning its strategy of how to get service restored when the storm hit. Technicians were driving around counties looking for weak trees and limbs and checking for dangers such as live wires.

Moye estimated most customers would have power restored by Saturday, but he said the time frame depended largely on how much more damage the storm did as it moved east through the state.

Wayne and Cabell counties were the first hit by the storm. Wayne County, which also sustained serious power outages in January, reported 7,237 without power Wednesday night. Cabell County had 11,428 without power, and Lincoln County had 5,787 outages.

Other outages reported by 11 p.m. were: 1,919 in the Nicholas County; 7,238 in Fayette County; 3,336 in Mingo County; 5,569 in Logan County; 4,102 in Boone County; 1,833 in Mason County; 2,869 in Jackson County; 328 in Roane County; 678 in Clay County; 2,868 in Raleigh County; 789 in Wyoming County; 2,028 in McDowell County; 9,744 in Mercer County; 145 in Summers County; 250 in Monroe County; and 419 in Greenbrier County.

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