The top five answers are: (1) I was at home without any electricity; (2) I was at home with electricity most of the time, but I could not get out of my house; (3) I was stuck on the West Virginia Turnpike for up to twenty hours; (4) I was rescued from the turnpike and spent two nights at a Volunteer Fire Department; and (5) I am still at home without electricity or heat and I expect to be this way until Christmas day.
Last weekend’s snow storm brought over two feet of snow to the southern part of our state, closed the turnpike, and left thousands (including residents of Putnam and Mason) without electricity and heat. It is during times like this that the Mountaineer Spirit of all who live in West (by God) Virginia comes through. We are proud and thankful for the members of our communities and local governments that offered hospitality and friendship to those stranded during this snowstorm. Because of their help and concern, those traveling were able to find shelter, a warm place to sleep and hot food.
Unfortunately, this scenario of motorists being stranded on the turnpike for hours is not new. Just last year, an incident on the turnpike left motorists stranded in their vehicles for roughly ten hours. We admit that we cannot control the weather, nor can we prevent all vehicle accidents. However, we must acknowledge that the present way we handle road closures and traffic tie-ups on the turnpike is inadequate.
The Mission Statement of the West Virginia Turnpike states that it will “operate and maintain the West Virginia Turnpike as a modern, efficient and safe roadway” for the traveling public. It is reasonable to read into the term “safe roadway” a road that provides an alternate route or a reasonable evacuation method when needed.
This recent snow storm again highlighted the fact that the West Virginia Parkways Economic Development and Tourism Authority (Parkways Authority) has failed to establish or request funding for an emergency evacuation procedure for the turnpike. This lack of prior planning casts a shadow of doubt upon the ability of our infrastructure to safely transport goods and services through our State. The poor procedures followed in this recent turnpike shutdown impact our State’s economic health in a negative way.
It is for the reasons stated, I am requesting the legislature investigate the Parkways Authority and request that the Parkways Authority address the issue of why a program has not been implemented to provide a reasonable evacuation program for motorists stranded on our the turnpike.
Delegate Patti E. Schoen can be reached at 304-340-3141 or 304-415-0411, or by e-mail at pschoen@mail,wvnet.edu. For more information please check out www.pattischoen.us and www.legis.state.wv.us.