Traveling Interstate 68 East through Preston
County, one can still see the
storm’s full effect. Cars are still on the side of the road, visibility isn’t
good, and there’s a steady rain pouring from Morgantown
east to Bruceton Mills.
In Bruceton Mills, the B-F-S gas station is bustling with people
getting food and supplies.
The gas station is running on low power. The coolers can’t
keep drinks cool, so people who buy soda and juice are given ice in a cup if
they want. Many people are getting food at the Subway, then going to hotels
where they can get a shower, while others are visiting shelters.
Larry Etchison lives in Kingwood and works for the Red Cross.
He says numbers of people staying in the shelter he’s manning in Kingwood is dwindling,
“I started out with about 50 and about the third day out
some of them went home even though they didn’t have power—they have pets and
they want to be home,
Etchison says, “Of course, people in
Preston County want to be home instead of in a shelter but they can come here
for meals, they can leave and come back and take showers.”
Etchinson says mostly he’s sheltering elderly who need
electricity for their respiration machines. He says feeding people and his
volunteers is the biggest challenge he faces. His shelter doesn’t have a
kitchen to speak of, and they are trying to arrange to use other facilities to
prepare food. Meanwhile agreements have been made to share shelter space with
caterers for the power crews who are coming into town to help restore
In addition to the Kingwood
shelter, Preston County
has two other full shelters operating in Bruceton Mills and Terra Alta.
Masontown has a feeding-only shelter as the facility is without heat, and Rowlesburg
and the Albright Fire Station have warming shelters.
Public Information Officer for Preston County 911, Clark
Nicklow says one of the major challenges the county is facing is reaching residents
as secondary roads are still largely impassable.
“You can’t hardly get in on any of the secondary roads due
to the massive amount of trees down,” says Nicklow. “The National Guard is here
to help with that. We’ve actually got teams going out to clear the primaries
right now with heavy equipment and saw teams from the Division of Forestry.
They also have FEMA saw team enroute to the county.”
Nicklow says 80 people have been deployed from FEMA, coming
from all over the country to help clear debris. The County
Commissioners decided yesterday to
set aside 100-thousand dollars to pay local contractors who would team up with
the FEMA saw teams. The commissioners say they aren’t sure if that money will
be reimbursed to the county or not, but under the circumstances, they think
it’s the most responsible use of those public funds.
Preston County Commissioner President, Craig Jennings, says
folks in Preston County
are resilient mountain people, but Hurricane Sandy is testing boundaries as days
stretch on without power, and with limited supplies of food and fuel. He says clearing
primary roads is a slow and daunting task.
“It’s about as fast as you can walk in there is what we’re
doing right now because every thirty feet they’re stopping and cutting massive trees out of the way. And then up along the
ridgeline they’ve got three feet of snow that they’ve got to wade through to
even start to work through some of this. It’s really about as bad of a scenario
as we could have.”
Jennings says many teams are working to not only clear roads
but also to return to roads where paths have been cut, but more extensive work
is needed to make them passable for commercial traffic. Meanwhile county
commissioners are also trying to anticipate whether or not power will be
restored in time for voting next week.
“I know that to some people, if you’re sitting there without
electric or gas or heat it seems pretty petty to you right now, but it’s
something that we’ve got to move forward with to find out what we legally need
to do in order to keep that election on schedule.”