Massive power outages were affecting West Virginia early Tuesday morning, according to reports from Allegheny Power/FirstEnergy Corp., and it could be days before electrical service is fully restored.
Of the nearly 56,000 outages in the Mountain State, significant portions - or more than 26 percent - were in northcentral West Virginia, as of 1 a.m. By 1:30 a.m., the number of outages had risen to almost 60,000.
Nearly 14,400 of those outages were in The Inter-Mountain's coverage area. Affected counties and customer totals, as of 1:04 a.m., were as follows:
Randolph County - 4,735 customers;
Pendleton County - 2,219 customers;
Upshur County - 2,011 customers;
Grant County - 1,519 customers;
Barbour County - 1,476 customers;
Pocahontas County - 1,311 customers;
Tucker County - 1,105 customers;
Gilmer County - 20 customers; and
Lewis County - 5 customers.
Scanner traffic had been steady throughout Monday night and into the early morning hours, with calls concerning downed power lines and other related matters. One emergency call, which came across the scanner around 12:40 a.m., was in regard to power lines that were on fire in an area off of old Route 33. The fire was spotted about halfway between the four-lane and the Old Cheat River Inn.
Heavy precipitation and snow contributed to the outages as did heavy winds, the latter of which made emergency repairs difficult in some areas, said Patti Michel, power company spokeswoman.
"We have the appropriate crews that will be heading out, damage assessors who will look at what we need as soon as they are able to do so," Michel said. "Safety is of the utmost importance. We want to reconnect the greatest number of people as quickly and as safely as possible."
Michel indicated critical facilities, such as hospitals, would be given priority when determining an action plan for handling the massive scope of the outages. Even though it may take time for crews to assess and repair residential outages, Michel encouraged customers to report their individual power situations.
"If yours is out and your neighbor's power isn't, or your entire street is out, don't assume anyone called," Michel said.
She indicated FirstEnergy customer call centers are fully staffed 24-7. According to firstenergycorp.com, customers without power are encouraged to call 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877) to report their outage or click the "Report Outage" link.
"Customers should immediately report downed wires to their electric company or local police or fire department. Customers should never go near a downed power line, even if they think it's no longer carrying electricity," the website states.
For updated information on the company's storm preparation efforts, current outages, FirstEnergy's storm restoration process and tips for staying safe, visit the 24/7 Power Center at www.firstenergycorp.com/outages.