Nearly 688,000 West Virginians still were without power Saturday, after a storm ripped through the Mountain State Friday evening and left a string of devastation in its wake.
Randolph County and others in The Inter-Mountain's coverage area were among the 27 counties included in a state of emergency issued by the governor's office.
The Randolph County Commission and the city of Elkins also declared a state of emergency at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday because of the extensive power outage and resulting fuel shortage caused by the storm.
Randolph County Commission President Mike Taylor told The Inter-Mountain that it could be several days before power is restored. In Elkins, that has created a major concern with the city's water supply.
Mayor Duke Talbott explained Saturday afternoon that there was "enough water supply to last until 3 p.m. today."
While Talbott emphasized people should not panic, he also asked they conserve water and use it for essential needs only. The Elkins Water Treatment Plant, located on Barron Avenue and built in the early 1930s, is not equipped to pump to water storage tanks without electricity.
Talbott said Allegheny Power has placed the water plant on its highest priority and is "working desperately" to get power restored. Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley said Allegheny Power turned some circuits on in the city around 1:45 p.m. Saturday, but it would not supply power to the plant. He said Allegheny Power does not have a time estimate to restore power.
Elkins Fire Chief Tom Meader said he is keeping as many people on standby as possible to help with whatever is needed.
Randolph County Office of Emergency Services Director Marvin Hill estimated the storm produced winds gusting at 60-70 miles per hour, bringing down trees, power lines and phone lines throughout the region. Additionally, he said the primary substation that serves the Elkins area went down.
"Right now there are a lot of unknowns," Hill said Saturday morning while trying to gather information on damages.
The OES is working to establish emergency shelters should they be needed. Those may be located at Camp Pioneer in Beverly and at one school in the city limits.
"My No. 1 concern is if the temperature hits 95 degrees and people do not have air conditioning," Hill said Saturday morning. "A lot of people could be in serious distress."
On Saturday, some stores including CVS, Walgreens and Dollar General were selling necessities only. At Kroger, tents were set up to accommodate the long line of customers who were buying water.
On Friday, in downtown Elkins, visitors to the Mountain State Street Machines Auto Extravaganza ran for shelter as the wind gusts picked up and rain pelted down at around 8 p.m. As dark clouds gathered, the intensity of the storm increased. Flashes of lightning were the only things to illuminate the downtown, where gravel and other items were washed into the street by a hard-driving rain.
"The damage from today's storms is widespread and in many places severe," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a press release late Friday. "With temperatures near 100 degrees expected this weekend, it's critical that we get people's power back on as soon as possible. We are committing 100 percent of our state's resources for as long as we need to get this cleaned up."
According to the release, those without power should stay as cool as possible and drink plenty of water. The elderly and others susceptible to extreme heat should consider moving to an air-conditioned location.
"I've never seen anything like this," Talbott told The Inter-Mountain Friday night.
The Associated Press reported that 2 million people in the Mind-Atlantic region were left without power as a result of the storm.
The Inter-Mountain also was impacted by the storm. Without power, its staff worked throughout the night and late into the day Saturday to complete this edition. After various options were exhausted and no clear timeframe was available for power to be restored, employees began searching for a generator.
At around 12:15 a.m., Inter-Mountain employee Kristi Groves and her husband, Joe, arrived at the paper with a power generator, courtesy of David Davis Heating and Air Conditioning. By 12:27 a.m., the glow of a computer screen lit up a corner of the newsroom.
Unfortunately, the generator could not power all the essential equipment necessary for producing a paper.
On Saturday, staff members sought the help of The Times West Virginian in Fairmont to print Saturday's edition. Jim Jackson and Elkins Fordland then provided a van to transport the printed copies back to Elkins, keeping with the paper's tradition of never missing an edition, regardless of fire or other natural disasters.
The Inter-Mountain is working to distribute copies of this edition as expeditiously and safely as possible. Those who do not receive a copy on Saturday will receive a paper as soon as delivery can resumed to all sections of our coverage area. The gas shortage has impacted some newspaper carriers' ability to reach all customers at this time.
For breaking news, check The Inter-Mountain's facebook feed. Updates will be provided as they become available.