Winter storm shutters most of Louisa County

Downed trees hamper traffic in Mineral.

Rescue vehicles struck by trees

Wednesday’s  winter storm left more than 15,000 homes and businesses in the dark, and created hazardous road conditions. Eight to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow blanketed Louisa County, with brisk winds dropping trees and branches onto power lines, homes and cars.

A fire truck and an ambulance were struck by trees, but no one was hurt and there was little to no damage to the vehicles.  There also were no serious injuries reported during the wintery storm, according to Robert Dube, county administrator, and Keith Greene, the county’s chief of fire and emergency services.

The outages closed county government offices, schools and most businesses in the area. By late Thursday morning, more than 10,000 customers remained without power.

Crews from Dominion Virginia Power, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, as well as crews from other states and service areas  have been diligently working to bring power online.

Greg Edwards, Dominion Virginia Power spokesman, said that 95 percent of its customers were expected to be online by Friday night.

However, REC and CVEC spokespersons said that it could be as late as Sunday before they can restore power to all of their members in the Louisa County service area.

The type of snowfall made it difficult for the power companies workers to access the many off-road areas to make repairs.

“Which means that crews have to carry in materials and work by hand without the benefit of a bucket truck or big derrick,” said Greg Kelly, CVEC member services manager. “Manual crews were worried about trees falling on them.  Conditions were difficult and dangerous.  It’s not simply a quick fix.”

The severe outages left most businesses unable to open on Wednesday, leaving residents without many options to buy gas or food.

Subway Lake Anna was able to serve customers until they almost ran out of bread.  They served 267 Wednesday, more than the average of 150 customers served in a day.

According to Mark Fye, owner, he installed a whole store back-up generator when the business was built a few years ago.

“It was an expensive investment, but I knew from past experience the lake has some problems with power [losses],” said Fye.

In addition to being able to feed people during a power outage, the generator kept the business from losing several thousand dollars in product.

Jeffery Brown, owner of Louisa True Value Hardware, reported that his store was closed yesterday, but reopened at 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning after power was restored late the previous night.

Brown said he noticed a slight increase in business on Tuesday, but  “not a huge rush.

“I don’t think people thought it was going to be quite the event it turned out to be, which is understandable, as we’ve had some mild winters and false alarms,” he said. “I think people were kind of holding back – disposable income is less now.”

Trucks will be arriving on Friday at the store with batteries and other items, he said.

The County of Louisa Government Offices were closed Wednesday, except for public safety services such as fire, rescue, emergency management services, general services and the sheriff’s office. County offices reopened at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Dube praised the “heroic” coordinated effort of everyone who worked to open streets and serve those without power

“It was one of the busiest days I’ve experienced in Louisa during my tenure,” he said.

According to Dube, Dominion sent resources to work with the county to get electricity to the Louisa Middle School so that an emergency shelter could be opened.  The shelter was operational by 6 p.m. on Wednesday night, with 16 people taking advantage of the warmth it provided.

“We will keep it open until we get a good majority of the power back on,” he said.

Emergency services crews from all stations in the county responded to numerous motor vehicle accidents, calls for downed power lines and trees, said Greene.

“And, of course, we had our usual emergency medical calls to contend with,” he said.  “We spent the biggest part of the peak of the storm in the afternoon … removing trees from houses, roadways and driveways.”

“All the volunteer and career personnel did a great job, worked hand-in-hand,” said Greene.

They and others were assigned four-wheel drive vehicles and SUVs to transport people to the shelter.

Residents who want to stay at the shelter are asked to bring their own blankets, 48 hours of medication, food and bed linens.  Pets are also welcome at the shelter, but pet owners must bring their own pet food.

Those who can’t get out of their driveways can call the non-emergency dispatch number at (540) 967-1234, and crews will pick them up from their homes to take them to the shelter.

The Virginia Department of Transportation reported that all major highways in our area were clear of snow and ice as of Thursday morning. However, with dipping temperatures overnight, remaining water on roads are likely to freeze or create black ice early Friday morning, especially on bridges, crossovers, ramps and turn lanes.

 

To report a power outage:

Central Virginia Electric Cooperative Customers should call 1-800-367-2832, or report an outage online at www.mycvec.com, or send an email to cs@mycvec.com. Members can also track the cooperative’s progress online.

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative Members can call 1-800-552-3904 to report outages, or visit www.myrec.coop and click on the outage center link to follow their progress.

Dominion Virginia Power Customers can report an outage by calling 1-866-366-4357 or from their smartphones at www.dom.com.  Outage information is available online at www.dom.com.

To report downed trees or other road maintenance issues, call VDOT’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-367-7623.  Road conditions and weather for all highways in Virginia are available at www.511virginia.org.

By tcvnews
Posted on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm