UPDATE: NOON WEDNESDAY (Original story appears below.)
HARRISONBURG — About 23,000 homes and businesses are still without power in the Shenandoah Valley this afternoon, down about 8,000 from Tuesday.
About 22,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers in the Valley/western Piedmont area were still without power, while Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative had all but about 800 of their customers back on the grid.
In Rockingham County, more than 2,000 Dominion Power customers have no power for a fifth straight day, down from 4,000 Tuesday morning. Those outages are now widely scattered south and east of Harrisonburg.
At this time, SVEC is still trying to restore power to 48 of its Rockingham County customers, down from 200 late Tuesday afternoon.
Michael Aulgur, spokesman for the cooperative, said hundreds of technicians have been working to restore power since Friday’s powerful wind and lightning storm hit the Valley.
Crews from Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Delaware and Pennsylvania have joined local crews to help repair damage.
Dominion has had technicians working around the clock as well, with hundreds coming in from out of state to assist in the restoration. The company said it would be Friday before all of its customers are back on line.
GROTTOES — (Monday, July 3) After three days without power from Friday’s powerful wind and lightning storm, Grottoes resident Amy Hensley drove from her home on Deep Run Trail into town in search of ice and a cool drink.
During her quest, she stopped at the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department — one of three cooling stations in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County — to grab a drink and a bite to eat, courtesy of the Salvation Army.
Despite the hassle of no power, the 45-year-old said she’s remaining optimistic.
“Although it’s really been an inconvenience, we have a lot to be thankful for,” said Hensley, who pointed to the many people in Colorado who just lost their homes due to wildfires. “We have our homes and a lot of people in some parts of the country don’t.”
While about 40 structures were damaged in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, no one was killed. Statewide, there were 10 storm-related fatalities, including two people who died from falling trees in Albemarle County.
Mike Aulgur, spokesman for Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, said Friday’s storm, which packed winds measured at 80 mph in Virginia, was a record-setter for the Valley.
“On a percentage basis, it’s definitely in the top two,” Aulgur said. “By far, [it’s] the most members we ever had [without power].”
He said it was as bad, or worse, than a 1979 ice storm that hit the Shenandoah Valley. Then, he said, the cooperative had 30,000 customers, while it has 92,000 now. Of that number, about 40,000 lost power at some point during the weekend.
As of 10:15 p.m. Monday, about 2,700 SVEC customers were without power, including 525 in Rockingham County.
Meanwhile, Dominion Power reported earlier in the day Monday that about 6,000 customers in Rockingham County were without power, many in Grottoes.
Harrisonburg Electric Commission reported that all customers had power by Monday.
Rush For Supplies
At the peak of the storm, tens of thousands were without power in the Valley, which sent people scouring to home improvement stores for supplies.
Donald Donkle, store manager of Lowe’s Home Improvement in Harrisonburg, said the store was flooded with people buying coolers, flashlights, batteries, candles, and shingles and tarps for roof repairs.
Generators were in high demand, he said, adding he kept selling out all weekend. A new supply came in Monday but was wiped out quickly.
While Donkle said he was not allowed to reveal how many were sold, he said it was a record number.
“Everyone wanted a generator. It’s more than any snowstorm,” said Donkle. “It’s the most I’ve ever seen sold.”
Some of those customers likely came from Grottoes, one of the hardest-hit areas.
Mayor Joe Morris said almost the entire town was without power Friday night.
During the weekend, the town’s water supply became critically low because power that supplied the well pumps was lost. The town doesn’t have a backup generator.
Morris said town officials made arrangements to get generators to use, but those fell through. He said Harrisonburg loaned them one and they were able to get a second generator from the Richmond area.
As of Monday morning, about 85 percent of the town’s residents had electric service restored. It’s unclear when the remaining residents will have power.
While many were out of power, Capt. Duane Burleigh of the Salvation Army joined other volunteers to man cooling stations throughout the county.
Stations were set up at Broadway, Harrisonburg and Spotswood high schools on Saturday after Harrisonburg and Rockingham County officials declared a local emergency. County officials say the cooling station at Spotswood closed because of a lack of use, and the one at the Grottoes fire station opened.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management coordinated the delivery of water statewide, including to Rockingham County.
On Sunday, the organization provided 160 meals to Grottoes residents looking to beat the heat.
“The community supports us when we’re in need, and it’s our job to support them when they’re in need,” Burleigh said. “Whether it’s a hamburger, hot dog and bottled water, or someone to just listen to them in a time of need.”
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or email@example.com