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‘The worst is behind us’

Region escapes serious storm damage; some power lost

June 14, 2013
By Chad Clem - Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

Residents breathed a sigh of relief Thursday after the region mostly avoided serious damage from the huge storm system sweeping across the nation.

"The worst is past us," Jim Wise, director of the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management, said Thursday afternoon. "The storms that we've seen over the last 12 to 18 hours have passed, and as it stands right now, no more significant weather is going to hit our area for now."

Despite the possibility of high winds and hail, local communities mostly saw heavy rain during Wednesday night's thunderstorms.

Jonathan Wolfe, a meterologist for the National Weather Service in Charleston, said Thursday that flash floods were the most extreme results of the storm in West Virginia.

"This is the first significant widespread weather event of the summer in this area," Wolfe said.

According to NWS tallies, Randolph County was soaked by 1.3 inches of rain from Wednesday through Thursday, while Barbour County experienced 1.47 inches of rain and Upshur County saw 1.32 inches.

Early Thursday afternoon, a hard rain combined with high winds left some damage behind as it passed through Barbour County, toppling several trees and causing power outages.

The First Energy website reported at 2 p.m. Thursday that 6 percent of Barbour County customers were without power due to the severe weather. Crews were assessing damage and working to restore service.

Affected customers in Barbour County totaled 375, including 178 in Belington and 115 in Junior. Smaller outages of up to 20 affected customers were reported for areas near Volga and Audra.

Barbour County Office of Emergency Management Operations Chief Terry Wilfong said the outages were not a cause for concern. He said outages in Belington were caused by multiple fallen trees.

Barbour County Commissioner Phil Hart said that by 4 p.m., several trees and power lines were down throughout Belington. He said the Office of Emergency Management reported receiving several fire calls related to downed power lines, but there had been no serious damage or injuries discovered during the response to those calls.

Hart said a tree fell on a home on Laurel Mountain Road, but no one was injured. He said the tree limbs brushed against the house as it fell, but caused no major damage.

Upshur County Office of Emergency Management Public Information Officer Jim Farrell said that even though the flood watch for the area had been extended into Thursday evening, the Buckhannon River did not pose any immediate threat. He said the streams in the county were not nearing flood stage.

"We're in good shape right now," he said.

The quick-moving storm only caused a few minor power outages in Upshur County, Farrell said.

"The National Weather Service was right on the mark," he said.

Farrell said the county's emergency officials will continue to monitor the waterways and the forecasts, and he urged citizens to pay attention to warnings issued over social media and broadcast channels.

Following the severe thunderstorms of Wednesday and Thursday, NWS officials said today should be mostly sunny with some fog in the morning.

"It's going to be a nice day," NWS meteorologist Joe Merchant said Thursday.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin urged West Virginians on Thursday to use caution, following the storms that passed through the state. Due to severe storms that have caused continuous heavy rainfall, flooding, high winds, mudslides, power outages along with road and stream blockages, Tomblin signed a proclamation declaring a state of emergency for Roane County.

The West Virginia National Guard sent personnel to assist in Roane County after several inches of rain prompted flash flooding Thursday.

The flooding forced the evacuation of Roane County's 911 center and closed roads in the Spencer area, said Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director of operations Terrance Lively.

Lively said about five water rescues were conducted in the county Thursday morning. There were no injuries.

West Virginia State Police advised motorists to avoid roads near Spencer because of high water. About 20 National Guard members were called to assist in the town. Six military vehicles were sent to the area to make health and wellness checks. Four more vehicles were loaded with food and water.

Lively said 911 calls in Roane County were transferred to Jackson County.

The National Weather Service said the Spencer area received up to 3 inches of rain in a 12-hour period ending at noon Thursday.

Statewide, the storms left about 40,000 utility customers in the state without electricity.

Melissa Toothman and John Wickline also contributed to this article. Photo by Beth Christian Broschart.



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