Ill wind really does blow no good
The growl of chainsaws and the purr of generators replaced the eerie quiet Saturday morning, as Pocahontas County residents arose to assess the effects of a Friday evening windstorm. The storm caused major damage throughout the entire county; however, no fatalities and no accidents were reported that evening.
At an Emergency Services meeting Saturday, EMS director Melvin Martin said southern Pocahontas County suffered the worst damage. Wayne and Diane Madison's home on Puffenbarger Road was destroyed, and the roof of Hillsboro Elementary School was peeled from the structure and came to rest near the playground.
In other areas, falling trees caused most of the damage to homes and buildings, as well as causing roadblocks for travelers.
Pocahontas County was not alone.
Nearly half of West Virginia's 55 counties were without power Saturday, as well as counties in Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
Division of Highways crews worked through Friday night to clear the roadways, while Frontier Communications' phone systems were working in most of the county until Saturday afternoon.
In the Marlinton area, power was retstored Sunday morning, as was power to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Bartow, Frank and Durbin areas.
Saturday's meeting brought out the best in county leaders, as they planned for a worst-case scenario.
Water, food and gasoline shortages were top priority, as were visits to elderly people who live alone and depend on the Senior Center for food.
Pocahontas Memorial Hospital was a priority. PMH financial officer Chad Carpenter reported seven patients, but the hospital could only feed them soup and sandwiches. Power was restored to PMH Sunday morning.
Marlinton Fire Chief Herb Barlow said that the school system would lose all its frozen food inventory and that Superintendent C. C. Lester had offered it to the fire departments so they could be prepared for hungry residents.
Members of the BFD Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad, West Virginia State Police and the Pocahontas County Sheriff's Department attended the meeting with Martin and 911 Director Shawn Dunbrack.
NRAO's Mike Holstine offered shelter for people who were oxygen dependent, and the observatory's dorm-style room for anyone who needed a place to sleep.
Perhaps the most important message of Saturday was one of conservation-of water, food and gasoline-so that residents had enough resources to survive tothe end of the emergency.
Since week-long predictions for power outages were the norm, early return of power to some areas was a happy circumstance.
Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith said the town would share water with residents from outlying areas who bring their own containers.
Smith reported few problems in the county seat other than downed trees and downed power lines.
"We had a real good response from law enforcement and EMS," Smith said. "The fire department-I really praise them. They were on top of everything real fast. They got a plan in motion. We're in pretty good shape."
In fact, volunteer firefighter Thomas Barnisky brought a gas grill to the fire station and cooked a variety of foods throughout the weekend-"for anybody that needed to get a bite to eat."
And what a "bite" they had.
Smith said Sunday supper included venison, fried potatoes and onions, bread, biscuits and bacon.
Pioneer Days will go on as planned, although Smith at one point Saturday had suggested canceling the annual festival.
Smith said he'd heard of some disputes over gasoline, but overall, people in town had handled the situation well.
"There didn't seem to be any panicking," he continued. "Tempers didn't flare too bad."
Upper End 'Pandelerium'
The winds were choosy in Green Bank, felling several large trees at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, but leaving the Green Bank Telescope unharmed. The Pocahontas County Board of Education had previously discussed removing the trees because of their proximity to the school's playground.
Also near the school, trees fell on the tennis courts, and two small dugouts were blown over at the baseball field.
Two trees at nearby Liberty Presbyterian Church were blown over, but an old monument commemorating Masonic Lodge #366 was left unharmed.
Trent's General Store in Arbovale and Henry's Quick Stop in Green Bank had long lines as customers waited for gas fill ups. Customers were allowed a 10-gallon ration.
Camp Twin Creeks in Minnehaha Springs is host to 220 campers and nearly 100 counselors and staff.
Twin Creeks owner Gordon Josey said Monday that the only warning they had was "just the skies."
"The sky went darker than dark," Josey said.
Josey said camp staff moved campers into the horse barn and gymnasium to wait out the storm.
By Monday, things at camp had improved a great deal.
"We've got water, we've got food," he said. "We're serving 300 meals three times a day."
Josey said more gas and food are on the way.
"All in all-considering-we are doing very well," he said.
The biggest problem the camp has had has been communication with the outside world where 220 sets of parents are waiting to hear about their children.
Where we stand Monday
Monongahela Power crews were spotted working in the Marlinton area Monday morning, one source confirmed that local Mon Power employees were working all weekend.
9-1-1 Director Shawn Dunbrack said that the local power company will not give a definite date, but that power should be back on north of Buckeye by the end of the week. Dunbrack said he could not reach AEP, which provides power to southern Pocahontas County, to confirm a rumor that that area would have power by the end of the week, also.
Dunbrack said Frontier Communications personnel are working on a fiber-optic line from Bluefield. A crew is dedicated to that effort, Dunbrack said.
Food, water and shelter have been turned over to the Pocahontas County Sheriff's Department, Dunbrack said. The sheriff's department was working in Green Bank and Hillsboro.
He also said that no National Guard has been deployed to this county, because "there is no National Guard to send us, at this point." Dunbrack also noted that small amounts of water and other goods have come from the state, but so many people in so many places are in the same boat that Pocahontas County isn't getting much.
Most calls to 9-1-1 have been for water or home oxygen, as well as food, cooling shelters and generators.
"We are working with state and federal resources," Dunbrack said. "We're getting what we can."
Dunbrack said generator requests for the area are on the list for state aid, but with so many other West Virginia counties, as well as counties in other states affected, lots of people have the same requests. Even federal aid is taking a long time, he said.
"Right now things seem to be going pretty well," Dunbrack said. "People are taking care of themselves pretty well. Power is coming back on in some areas and that's helping a lot."
Suzanne Stewart and Angelo Jiordano contributed to this story.
Pamela Pritt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org