MASON COUNTY — “We are calling this a catastrophic event,” Karen Jones of Mason County EMS said about the fallout from Friday’s powerful storm.
Jones was helping man the phones at the Mason County Office of Emergency Services on Monday and said it appeared the storm didn’t seem to discriminate where it hit in the county - it hit all of it.
Jones reported water is being made available at all local fire stations for residents who need it. She said the big rumor in the county had to be the Mason County Office of Emergency Services was shutting off water supplies - she said this was not true. The rumor likely began when the power outage affected some pump stations operated by the Mason County Public Service District, specifically in the Hannan area and Redmond Ridge area.
Tanks in these areas were being depleted due to the extended outage and not enough generators to keep up with the demand to push the available water to homes, according to PSD Chief Operator Steve Hite. However, Hite said emergency generators from the state were arriving and water was beginning to flow again in the Hannan area on Monday - water began to run out in the Hannan area on Sunday. Water in the Redmond Ridge area was running out on Monday, but again, with the arrival of the two large generators, the PSD hoped to have service quickly restored just as it did for those Hannan customers.
Hite said for those areas which were without service and later came back online, there would be a boil advisory on this water until further notice. The PSD must take samples of this water once the tanks are filled and send them off to the state before the advisory is lifted. Hite said if all goes well the boil advisory could be lifted by Friday in the Hannan area. Also, a decrease in water pressure may be experienced by customers in some areas until power is completely restored.
Hite stressed the Mason County PSD did not turn anyone’s water off - water becoming scarce in some areas was due to the catastrophic nature of the event and the availability (or unavailability) of generators. With the arrival of more generators, this should alleviate problems for PSD water customers and until then, again, all local fire stations are receiving water for residents if needed. Hite said during this emergency event customers are asked to be prudent about how they use their water until power is completely restored. There are around 6,000 people who get their water from the Mason County PSD.
Commissioner Rick Handley said Monday afternoon Appalachian Electric Power had sent him a fax saying the company projected power would be restored in Mason County by Thursday evening. Handley said he’d heard from different areas that power was beginning to sporadically come back on in pockets of the county on Monday.
Due to the outage, the Mason County Courthouse was closed on Monday and it appeared would remain closed on Tuesday - it will be closed on Wednesday for the Fourth of July holiday. Handley said the county was taking it one day at at time in terms of determining when county offices would reopen, which of course is determined by the return of electricity. Handley said there is an emergency generator running to keep the Mason County Sheriff’s Department open.
Handley also said on Monday he was seeing more utility workers in the county trying to restore service and added the emergency shelter at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School had been a “Godsend.” Jones said at least 60 people had spent the night in the shelter on Sunday. Handley added Mason County Schools were generously supplying food to those who showed up. He also said it was his understanding if anyone wanted to stay at the shelter they were encouraged to bring their own linens and pillows.
As of 6 p.m. Monday evening, Appalachian Electric Power reported 10,058 people were without power in Mason County out of 14,866 total customers.
Also on Monday, President Obama declared West Virginia a disaster area which will make federal emergency aid available to the Mountain State and counties like Mason County.
Those who have non emergency questions for the Mason County Office of Emergency Services, such as questions about water supplies, should not call 9-1-1 but 304-675-8686.