Storm disrupts Watoga's summer season
When the infamous derecho struck Pocahontas County recently, Watoga was packed with campers. In fact, all of the 34 cabins were occupied when the windstorm hit.
Watoga State Park superintendent Mark Wylie said one of the cabins was struck by a downed tree, but there was no damage, and a couple of cars and a pop-up camper were hit. Fortunately, astonishingly, no one was hurt.
"Thankfully no one was injured," said Wylie. "It hit early enough that no one was in bed yet."
Wylie said the park was able to maintain water throughout the park despite the storm damage.
"We have five potable water systems, four of which have wells," explained Wylie."The fifth one is a spring fed system, so it runs whether there's power or not. So we had water in all the cabins, even though the showers were cold."
Wylie said it was the sewer plant they were mostly concerned about.
"That was the thing that would've really closed us," Wylie said. "But we got A-1 pumping in here and they pumped a bunch of sludge out of the lift stations and the Riverside sewer plant."
According to Wylie, the park was technically closed after the storm struck.
"If you looked at the website, the park was closed, but I said, well, listen, I've got people here and they're fine," Wylie said. "They're in no danger, we've got water, the commodes work. If they wanna stay, they should be able to stay."
Wylie said the park charges $3 more a night for cabins and campsites with electric service, but he decided not to charge campers the extra cost for power after the storm.
Clean-up efforts were in full swing the night the storm hit.
"The assistant superintendent, Kelly Smith, she was here and on duty and she got a crew out here that night and they had the main roads open," Wylie said. "Then they came out Saturday and got the cabin areas open."
Now that power has been restored to the park, other than the Beaver Creek side, getting the 40+ miles of trails cleared is next on the agenda, but it could take weeks.
"I've got a WVU student here right now, GPSin' the trails. I bet he wishes he would've done 'em two weeks ago," joked Wylie. "He's coming back with reports about the trees along the ridge tops, they especially got hit. Any of the trails that go up on the ridge are just covered. It'll take us probably three weeks before we open all the trails."
Wylie said there wasn't any permanent damage from the storm, but it hit at the peak of the park's summer season.
"This is the meat of our season right here," said Wylie. "This week I should have 34 full cabins, right now, we have 10."