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Jefferson County man's death being investigated to see if it was storm-related

FirstEnergy spokesman: Power is expected to be fully restored in Berkeley and Jefferson counties by late Thursday

July 03, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Police are investigating whether the death of a 66-year-old Jefferson County man was related to a Friday night storm that left much of the region without power.

The man was found by a neighbor Sunday afternoon in his Blue Ridge Acres home, which was at least 95 degrees inside, according to Sgt. R.L. Fletcher of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

An autopsy will be conducted by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine if the man’s death was heat-related, said Fletcher, who declined to release the victim’s name.

There was no foul play, Fletcher said.

Preliminary medical findings indicate the man, who used a wheelchair, had pre-existing heart and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease problems, according to Fletcher.

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“He was on oxygen 24/7,” he said.

A neighbor became concerned about the man’s welfare after not seeing him for a few days. The neighbor also noticed the man had not retrieved his newspaper at the end of a wheelchair ramp at his home,  Fletcher said.

In addition to the Blue Ridge Acres death, county Medical Examiner Donald Shirley said Tuesday that he handled a death that appeared to be heat-related on Friday before the storm swept through the Eastern Panhandle and left tens of thousands of customers without power.

On Tuesday, FirstEnergy spokesman Scott Surgeoner said that power is expected to be fully restored in Berkeley and Jefferson counties by late Thursday.

The estimated restoration time for customers in Morgan County was midday today, according to company’s storm center website.

As of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jefferson County still had the most customers without power in the Eastern Panhandle, at about 2,330, according to the company’s website.

About 2,296 Berkeley County customers and about 650 customers in Morgan County were also still without electricity, the website said.

A strong storm system that came through the Tri-State area around 6 p.m. Tuesday affected restoration efforts and ended up knocking out power to about 750 customers in Franklin County, Pa.

Only a handful of Franklin County customers remained without power as of 10:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Water and ice are available at Martin’s stores in Charles Town, W.Va., and Martinsburg, as well as three Hagerstown locations, the company said.

While the storm caused “a mess” and downed two trees at War Memorial Park in Martinsburg, annual Independence Day festivities will be begin as scheduled this afternoon, according to the executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation board.

“We’re good to go,” Steve Catlett said.

The fireworks show is set to begin at 9:30 p.m.

One of the trees that fell came within about 10 feet of crushing a dump truck at the park, Catlett said.

He said that county parks did not appear to suffer any serious structural damage, but noted the power outage resulted in the loss about $1,000 in ice cream.

Althouugh West Virginia public health officials issued a boil-water advisory for the entire state Monday, officials with the Berkeley County Public Service Water District, and the cities of Martinsburg and Charles Town have reported that their services were not disrupted.

All three utilities reported no service failures or loss of pressure, which could prompt the need for customers to boil water.

On Tuesday, Paul Fisher, executive director of the Berkeley County Public Service Water District, commended water district employees for carrying out a plan to maintain service without disruption as a result of the power outage.

The water district did have to rely on generated power to operate one  well that serves Glenwood Forest residents, Fisher said.

Charles Town City Manager Joe Cosentini said Tuesday that the city worked diligently to avoid service disruption and had not experienced low water pressure. 

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