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Eastern Panhandle residents continue to endure storm's wrath

July 01, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Residents living near the intersection of Race St. and N. Alabama Ave. in Martinsburg watch as a utility crew from Sumter, South Carolina, put up a new power line pole. Some of the residents have been without power since the storm.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Thousands of Eastern Panhandle, W.Va., residents still reeling from violent storms Friday night struggled through another day without electricity Sunday as temperatures soared into the 90s and the humidity reached as high as 96 percent in parts of the Tri-State area.

Joann Linaburg stood on the front porch of her home at 115 A N. Alabama Ave. wondering when the utility crews working down the street might have her electricity restored.

Linaburg, who was without power following the storms, said she was staying “somewhat” cool in her house by keeping everything closed up. She said some of her neighbors went to stay elsewhere, but she was going to wait it out.

“Me and my little fuzzy dog are staying here. We have made it through two nights and it is supposed to be getting a little cooler,” Linaburg said.

The outages and widespread damage were caused by a “derecho,” a widespread, long-lived windstorm associated with a band of rapidly moving thunderstorms, said Nikole Listemaa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. Damage in a derecho is usually in one direction along a relatively straight swath, said Listemaa, who added the systems are rare for this area.

A tornado warning was issued for northwestern Washington County and northwestern Morgan County, W.Va., Friday night during the storms, but Listemaa said her agency has not been able to determine yet where a tornado occurred.

The storm sent homeowners scrambling to save food in the searing temperatures and some snapped up power generators to keep electricity flowing in their houses.

Workers at the Lowe’s store along Apple Harvest Drive in Martinsburg said they had 30 to 40 generators in stock and sold out shortly after opening Saturday morning. All the chain saws sold out shortly after that, workers said.

Frustrated people looking for help with problems at their homes came to the store and were also looking for bottled water, workers said. Store Manager Archer Bullock said Lowe’s was sending an emergency shipment of generators that might arrive at the store Sunday night. Bullock said a couple hundred generators were expected to be shipped and were expected to be divided among Lowe’s stores in Martinsburg, Winchester, Va., and Hagerstown.

“We’re trying to help people in the community the best we can,” Bullock said.

Darien Torlone, who lives on Specks Run Road in Bunker Hill, W.Va., said the storm peeled off half of the roof on her house and flipped it over, leaving that section of the house open to the rain, which ran like a “fountain” through her home.

Torlone said she will have to replace the carpeting, drywall and wood flooring in the exposed part of the house.

“It’s a mess,” said Torlone, who said her family is living in the other half of the house.

Cathy Teal, who lives along Iden Lane off W.Va. 45 in Berkeley County, said high winds from the storm started dropping tree branches in her yard and took away a deck umbrella that she never saw again. Teal said on Sunday that she had been without power since Friday and was keeping her frozen and refrigerated food with other people until her power is restored.

Teal said she tried to stay in her house after the storm to take care of chores but couldn’t stand it.

“It’s just too overwhelming in the heat,” said Teal, who went to stay with her sister.

North Alabama Avenue outside Linaburg’s house still looked like a war zone Sunday afternoon, with chunks of massive downed trees several feet in diameter lying along the side of the road. Four utility poles were snapped off when the tree fell across the line and the top of one pole was still suspended in the air Sunday in a tangle of lines.

Six cooling stations were set up in Berkeley and Jefferson counties Sunday to give people some respite from the heat.

Cooling stations were set up in Berkeley County in the Martinsburg Mall community room, the Martinsburg Fire Department on Raleigh Street, the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Co. in Inwood, W.Va., the Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Department and the Bedington Volunteer Fire Department, according to a Berkeley County 911 spokesman.

A man and woman stayed at the Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Department Saturday night and the couple was expected to stay again Sunday night, said Chief Mike Nichols.

Nichols said he expected a few more people — like ones dealing with medical conditions — to stay at the fire department Sunday night.

A cooling station was set up Sunday at Washington High School in Jefferson County but only a few people came in, according to Jefferson County Health Department workers. The workers said they believed most Jefferson County residents were staying in their homes waiting out the power outages.

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