Officials heard from residents displeased by the county's response to the June 29 destructive storm during Thursday's Randolph County Commission meeting.
Commissioners also announced that an after action public meeting about the emergency response to the storm will be conducted at 6 p.m. Aug. 1 at Elkins High School.
During the meeting's public comment section, Arlene Howard of Mill Creek said the county "was not prepared for a wind storm. What will it be like if we have a major disaster?"
"My question is, did anyone know what was going on up the valley, in Mill Creek, Valley Head, Point Mountain, Blue Rock, Adolph, Pickens and other areas that were without power for over a week?" Howard asked. "We did not receive ice until Wednesday, July 4th. People lost all their food. We had no water and nowhere to get it.
"Why is there not a generator at each water plant?" Howard asked. "Why do you not have a plan set in place to have a generator at a couple gas stations? Why do you not have cases of water at every shelter and fire department in case of emergency?
"We should not have to beg for things," she said.
Howard also was also dissatisfied with what Marvin Hill, director of the county's Office of Emergency Management, allegedly told her when she called the office during the storm's aftermath.
"I was told by Marvin, if I was so worried, to get off my butt and go help. I was asking for help for myself and my family," Howard said.
"Marvin Hill told me that water and ice and generators were sent back. No one needed them. Can somebody please explain that to the people of Randolph County?"
Bob Phillips of Valley Bend said he was "not here to point the finger at anyone in the county, I'm here to point the finger at the whole county. We have a problem in Randolph County."
"This was a test for you people," Phillips said to the county officials in the room. "Every radio station in Randolph County was off the air. What are you gonna do? People need to know where to go and what to do."
Donna Santee of Beverly said, "We were without power, phones and cellphones for days. No one knew what to tell us to get help."
Santee said she knew of diabetics in the county who could not find no ice for storing their insulin while the power was out.
"I have lived through hurricanes (in Florida), but I've never lived through anything this bad, where I could not get information," Santee said. "Our 911 is worthless.
"I don't think we're living in the 19th century anymore. We need to move into the 21st century."
Commission President Mike Taylor told those who spoke that the commissioners "take your comments very seriously.
"(The storm) was a true test of the resources we had and the plans that we had in place," Taylor said. "Some of the things that we had planned worked, some of the things that we had planned did not work. I'll readily admit that."
Taylor said "one of the biggest failures" was the "lack of communication to get the word out to the people."
He noted that the county has an AM radio station at the 911 Center, but it has only a seven-mile broadcast signal.
"So that doesn't do people beyond Beverly any good," Taylor said. "That's something that we need to work on."
Taylor said the local commercial radio stations had no backup generators, which was a problem because the county would normally have relied on them for making Emergency Broadcast System announcements.
"That's something that we're going to have to go back to the drawing board and find out how to get the word out to people," Taylor said.
The county will host an after action public meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 1 at the Elkins High School auditorium to allow the public to ask questions about the emergency response to the storm.
The meeting will feature a panel including Hill, the commissioners, the mayors of the county's towns, and representatives from the Randolph County Fire Association.
Taylor admitted there are many problems to address.
"Some of them are quick fixes, some of them will have to be fixed as the funding becomes available for it," he said.
Taylor said a top priority for the commission is to "make sure as money is available that every fire department in the county has a backup generator."
"We will make the resources available to Mr. Hill to make the changes we need to make to be sure that this doesn't happen again," Taylor said. "But it's going to take some time and it's going to take some money, as the budget allows."
Taylor noted that the commission is working with The Inter-Mountain to distribute an emergency preparedness guide brochure to county residents, and to put the information on The Inter-Mountain's web site.
Hill said earlier this week that about 11,200 copies of the brochure were printed last August, but only about 100 were distributed.
Commissioner Chris See said, "We're not the only county that had problems. It was pretty much statewide. We will work on it to get it fixed. It wasn't a perfect plan that we had."
Commissioner Joyce Johns noted there was a "lack of communications the day after the power outage. We were having a lot of difficulty at the OEM office getting the word out."
Johns suggested that the office's "automated (phone) system be updated regularly" during an emergency so residents can call for updates and pass the word along.
Asked by Taylor if he wanted to speak during Thursday's meeting, Hill said he would save his comments for the Aug. 1 meeting.
The next county commission meeting will be at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 2 in the James Cain Courthouse Annex in Elkins.