A severe thunderstorm with winds nearing 70 mph tore through the area Friday evening, downing utility poles and trees, and closing roads. As a result of nature's fury, 99 percent of the residents in Tyler County were left without power. Overall, it was estimated more than half a million people in at least 27 counties were effected by the massive outage.
The intense and progressive windstorm tracked across a large section of the Midwestern United States and across the central Appalachians into the Mid-Atlantic States on the afternoon and evening of June 29, and into the early morning of June 30. It resulted in at least 17 deaths from New Jersey to West Virginia.
Early Saturday morning, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for the entire state of West Virginia. The statewide emergency declaration allowed all government resources to be devoted immediately to helping those in need and restoring power as soon as possible.
"The damage from today's storms is widespread and in many places severe," said Gov. Tomblin. "With temperatures near 100 degrees expected this weekend, it's critical that we get people's power back on as soon as possible. We're committing 100 percent of our state's resources for as long as we need to get this cleaned up."
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said, "(Friday) night's storms caused severe damage and left hundreds of thousands of West Virginians without electricity in this extreme heat. I urge all West Virginians to be very careful, stay hydrated, and check on your neighbors especially the elderly. I know the state will do all it can to care for those in need, and I will do everything in my power to make sure West Virginia gets any needed federal assistance very quickly."
Gov. Tomblin continues to work with emergency management personnel around the state to assist in recovery and cleanup efforts. He has spent the past two days meeting with local first responders and surveying firsthand the damage around the state. "I know the past few days have been very trying for folks across West Virginia, and unfortunately, the problems we are facing will not be resolved overnight," said Tomblin. "I can assure you that our emergency management officials and power companies are working around the clock to get things cleaned up. I'd ask that all West Virginians continue to check on their friends and family, stay off the roads as much as possible, and most important, that everyone remain calm."
Because of the continued power outages and the limited amount of gas stations currently operating due to a lack of power, the governor asked that only those state employees providing essential services are required to report for work on Monday. Employees deemed to be providing essential services are those that are designated as such by their respective commissioners, directors, or secretaries; those who work in facilities open on a 24-hour basis; or those who provide services relating to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens.
The Department of Highways is now reporting all major roads are open, and utility companies are working diligently to restore power as soon as possible. Progress is being made every hour - current outages are down to 493,00 West Virginians from our initial report of 688,000. The West Virginia National Guard has health and wellness assessment teams on the ground going door to door checking on those affected by the storms.
Area residents who are still without power should stay as cool as possible and drink plenty of water. The elderly and others susceptible to extreme heat should consider moving to an air conditioned location or seeking help if they feel that their health is threatened. All West Virginians are urged to check in on friends and neighbors who may need assistance, and to call 911 in the event of emergency.