Thousands Without Power, Long Outages Possible
Utility Official: 'Potential To Turn Quite Serious'
A Virginia Dominion Power crew checks lines brought down by trees along North Main Street in Bridgewater early Saturday morning. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
North Main Street in Bridgewater, where trees brought down a power pole and phone lines near the Marshalls Distribution Center, remained closed Saturday. (Photo by Michael Reilly/Daily News-Record)
Two women inspect a tree that brought down lines on Reservoir Street in Harrisonburg, closing the street near Myers Avenue. (Photo by Michael Reilly / Daily News-Record)
Peggy Fink waits on customers without power at Mac's Superette in Fulks Run Saturday. (Photo by Michael Reilly/Daily News-Record)
Power lines arc from downed trees on East Elizabeth Street late Friday night. At the storm's height, 10,000 Harrisonburg Electric Commission customers were without power during the night Friday, according to a commission official. By Saturday morning, that number had been reduced to about 300. (Photo by Michael Reilly / Daily News-Record)
Brandon Howdyshell drags a tree limb while helping with cleanup at the home of Justin Bridges on West Dry River Road in Bridgewater on Saturday. (Photo by Michael Reilly/Daily News-Record)
This afternoon, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County officials declared a local emergency and set up cooling shelters at Broadway, Harrisonburg and Spotswood high schools. BHS and Spotswood were to open at 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. at HHS.
The local declaration comes on the heels of a statewide emergency declaration from Gov. Bob McDonnell, who stressed the importance of getting the word out to those without power the locations of area cooling stations.
While power has been mostly restored in Harrisonburg — which according to the Harrisonburg Electric Commission had 10,000 customers without power during the peak of the storm Friday night — other communities were not so lucky. Many towns, including Grottoes and Bridgewater, were still out as of midmorning Saturday.
In a statement from Mount Crawford-based Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, as of 4:45 p.m., approximately 25,665 of the electric co-op's members were without power. That's down from 32,226 reported outages at 10:45 a.m. The co-op's largest affected area was in Page County, where 6,027 customers were still without power, and Augusta County, which had 5,367 members with no service. In Rockingham, 4,855 were without service, while 2,907 customers had no power in Shenandoah County.
“Currently, the situation our members face has the potential to turn quite serious,” SVEC President and CEO Myron Rummel said in a statement. “We encourage our members to take necessary steps to protect their health during the next several days until power is restored.”
SVEC said it was unable to provide specific estimated restoration times due to the damage caused by the storm system and the large number of outages being experienced, but the co-op indicated that outages could last an extended period of time, possibly days.
Meanwhile, Dominion Virginia Power reported that storms packing winds of up to 80 mph Friday caused extensive damage throughout much of Virginia, leaving as of 11:40 a.m. more than 700,000 of its customers in the state without power. Of those, more than 110,000 were in the company’s Shenandoah Valley/Western Piedmont region. The most severely affected area was in Northern Virginia, where more than 420,000 Dominion customers were without power.
As of 2 p.m., Dominion reported it had reduced the number of outages statewide to 642,000 customers, 106,000 of those in the Shenandoah Valley/Western Piedmont region. By 5 p.m., that number was reduced, according to Dominion, to about 557,000 customers statewide — 88,000 in the Valley/Western Piedmont — without electricity.
Rodney Blevins of Dominion told The Associated Press it was unclear how long it will take to get power fully restored but added customers should “anticipate long outages.”
In spite of the widespread tree damage, grass and transformer fires that resulted from the storm, there were no reported fatalities in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County. As of Saturday afternoon, however, six people had died elsewhere in the state as a result of the weather.
The AP reports that McDonnell said two each were killed in Albemarle, Bedford and Fairfax counties by falling trees.
The storm’s wrath followed on the heels of a record-setting day in which the high temperature in the Harrisonburg area topped out at 101. Temperatures are predicted to stay well into the 90s through next week until at least Friday, when the mercury is expected to dip into the high 80s, according to the National Weather Service’s long-range forecast.
With the heat index — the combination of heat and humidity — expected to exceed triple digits in coming days, medical professionals recommend that residents with health concerns find a cool place to stay for their safety; anyone going outside should wear light-colored, loose clothing and apply sunscreen. Residents also should be aware of symptoms of a heat-related illness, including weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, disorientation and fainting.
In addition to the cooling shelters in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg, one has been set up at the Stanley Volunteer Fire Company in Stanley that will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.