During a recent Tucker County Commission meeting, commissioners and Tucker County 911 Center Director Darla Stemple reviewed the county's response to the severe June 29 storm.
The storm's extremely high winds knocked down many trees and power lines, causing the majority of the northwestern half of the county to be without power - along with most of West Virginia and neighboring states.
Parsons, St. George, Hambleton and Hendricks experienced a power outage from June 29 until the majority of power was restored by mid afternoon July 1.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Anna Patrick
The Tucker County Commission discusses the county’s response to the June 29 storm in a recent meeting with Tucker County 911 Director Darla Stemple. Overall, Stemple said she was very pleased with the adaptable response the county’s residents took to deal with fallen trees and the resulting power outage.
In the July 11 commission meeting, Stemple said the 911 Center's first storm-related call came at 8:02 p.m. June 29. After the storm hit the county, three additional 911 dispatchers traveled to the center to help the two dispatchers already on duty. Between June 29 and June 30, the Tucker County 911 Center received 144 calls total, with the bulk of the calls concerning trees and power lines down.
To answer the numerous 911 calls, all four volunteer fire departments and EMS in the county were responding.
"Parsons had the bulk of the calls. Thomas, Canaan and Davis also were out as well as the (West Virginia Division) of Highways," Stemple said.
She said it wasn't until she received a state briefing at 7 a.m. June 30 that she understood the storm was a statewide disaster and not just a county storm. After the briefing, Tucker County declared a local emergency at 9:21 a.m.
Inspecting the damage throughout the county, Stemple said she was surprised to see how much cleanup took place within only a few hours by Division of Highway employees and local residents.
"I don't think anyone realized how long it was going to be until the power was restored. They were just coping, and Tucker County did a good job of coping."
A cooling shelter was opened at 2 p.m. June 30 at Camp Kidd Park outside Parsons.
"The bulk of the people that utilized the shelter utilized it either to come get in and out of the heat or come for a meal. We had three people stay the first night, but most of them came, got what they needed and then went home."
To prepare for future power outages, Stemple encourages "people to have an old-fashioned telephone that does not require electric to operate (and) a gallon of water per person, per day, for up to three days. You need to keep that in stock at all times."
After reviewing the county's response to the storm, Stemple said, "Finding where the power outages were was extremely difficult. They kept coming in, and we didn't know about them until someone would call."
Stemple said she will speak to First Energy representative Allen Staggers to explore the possibility of gaining greater specificity regarding power outage location.
"Is there a way that when he gives me a report that he can break it down by road names or even customer names?" she asked.
Tucker County Commission President Tom Carr said, "The other question is: How many phone numbers does the power company give the public to call, one? That's something you need to address with Mr. Staggers. ... They have one designated number for millions of people to call, and that is just not going to work. That would be a concern I would like to see them address."
Commissioners continued to discuss the power outage, and Stemple said," Tucker County as a whole weathered the storm very well. Generators were shared across back yards."
Commissioner Mike Rosenau said hours of volunteer service go in to planning for these types of events, and he said everyone pulled together and did a great job.
"I commend them. Tucker County is blessed," Rosenau said.