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Crews working to restore power

February 12, 2009|From Staff reports

Winds cause substantial damage

TRI-STATE -- Crews continued working today to restore electrical service to Allegheny Power customers in the Tri-State area after high winds roared through the region Wednesday night and Thursday.

More than 1,500 customers in seven area counties were still without power by 3:30 this afternoon, the company reported.

"Much damage has occurred to our poles, lines, and equipment from the high winds. Allegheny Power crews began working on the problems immediately and they will continue to work around the clock until all customers are back in service," the company said on its Web site.

"To assist with our restoration effort, more than 500 additional personnel, including about 400 linemen have been moved into the affected areas. Crews continue to restore service to customers on an ongoing basis. in the initial 24 hours following the storm, Allegheny Power restored service to more than 267,000 customers," the company said.

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Crews from Virginia, South Carolina and New York were brought in to assist in West Virginia, Allegheny spokesperson Allen Staggers told The Associated Press this morning. He says backup crews had farther to travel because most of West Virginia's closest neighbors had power problems of their own.

According to the power company's Web site, as of 3:31 p.m. today, the number of customers without electricity totaled:

o 42 in Washington County

o 1 in Frederick County, Md.

o 57 in Franklin County, Pa.

o 51 in Fulton County, Pa.

o 470 in Berkeley County, W.Va.

o 174 in Jefferson County, W.Va.

o 773 in Morgan County, W.Va.

Winds howling up to 71 mph in the Tri-State area Thursday weakened a huge restaurant sign in Martinsburg, destroyed a dormer on a Martinsburg Union Rescue Mission building, toppled a cinder block wall on Frederick Street in Hagerstown and blew debris and lines across roads in other areas, officials said.

The gymnasium at Clear Spring High School went dark Thursday about 7 p.m. just as a boys basketball game between Clear Spring and Saint James was about to get under way, according to officials and spectators.

Power to the school was cut off because of downed power lines, and people in the gym flipped open their cell phones so they could see.

The winds also left thousands without power in what Allegheny Power officials said was an unprecedented interruption.

"This has been our biggest outage ever ... 328,000 and counting have either been out or are out right now," Allegheny Power spokesman Todd Meyers said at 5:30 p.m. Most would be restored within 24 to 46 hours, but with 5,500 separate outages some customers could be without power until Sunday, he said.

The 71-mph wind gust was recorded at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport south of Martinsburg, according to National Weather Service spokesman Calvin Meadows.

Meadows said the wind gust was the highest among the airport readings to which he had access, including Hagerstown Regional Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

In Hagerstown, the highest wind gust as of 8:45 p.m. Thursday was 64 mph, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site. That wind gust was recorded at 3:40 a.m. Thursday, the Web site said.

The winds were caused by a high-pressure weather system building behind a low-pressure system, Meadows said.

Clear Spring High School was the second Washington County high school to be affected by Thursday's weather.

Williamsport High School was closed Thursday because of a power outage and Thursday night's girls basketball game against Brunswick was canceled.

Schools in Paw Paw, W.Va. were also closed.

Today's forecast calls for sunny skies and highs around 50. There will be northwest winds about 15 mph with gusts up to 26 mph.

o For updated weather forecasts, road conditions and school closures or delays, go to The Herald-Mail Accuweather

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