WVEMD and local agencies address storm aftermath

From high winds to pounding precipitation to low visibility, Tuesday’s storm was chaotic.

How do our emergency responders deal with it and its aftermath?

It was a dynamic storm that brought out local, county and state agencies working around the clock, to ensure everyone was safe and accounted for.

I spoke to several of them who shared how it’s a collaborative effort to deal with a weather event like this, provide help to those who still need it, and work with the governor — who issued a state of emergency.

One of the critical roles of the West Virginia Emergency Management Division is the activation of the state emergency operation center (EOC). Now they are actively monitoring flood watches and warnings down the Ohio River, and other affected counties.

“We’re working all of those at the same time — with all the county emergency managers and the other emergency response agencies,” said WVEMD deputy director, Dr. Matt Blackwood. “Then we reached back to the governor’s office to provide them updates to let them know if there are any resource needs we need from them.”

WVEMD is working with the Fayette County emergency manager by requesting a damage assessment tool. By Thursday, April 4, 2024 — they had 280 individual assessments turned in. It can be from a simple damaged deck to a damaged outbuilding.

“Down there, especially in the Lookout area and Hico and some of those areas, pictures I have seen of some extreme devastation,” Blackwood said the pattern of the storm seems to be fairly localized. “But we are working with them to determine that damage level. So we’re still kind of in the early stages of collecting that information.”

Ansted Fire Department Captain Meredith Gray says several residents remained in their homes, while others couldn’t because of severe damage, including the chief of the Nuttall Fire Department, whose family home was knocked off its foundation. So everybody’s now in recovery mode and there for anybody who needs anything — from the fire service or the community.

“Nuttall Fire Department has had food trucks there, available for residents or emergency responders (the linemen), whomever may need a meal,” said the captain. “The weather may have put a damper on some of the recovery response, however, if there are needs, we have warming stations open. Different centers are available for help.”

It’s always hard when you’re one of the last people without power. Blackwood says it just takes time.

“Look at the numbers for power outages since Tuesday’s storm, the numbers have come down rather quickly. We had extensive outages,” said the deputy director.

According to Gray, almost 50 emergency responders were on the scene to help with initial searches to determine that all residents were accounted for. Two of the injured refused transport, while a third was treated for a leg injury.

“Other than that it was amazing how all the emergency responders came together and did as much as they could to help the community,” she said.

Blackwood says things we take for granted– like having power, cellphone service, shelter, food and water. If you have those concerns reach out to your county emergency manager who will connect with the WVEMD; they will work with their county partners.

“They’re doing a remarkable job. Bottom line is be patient, hang tight, we are here for people that need help,” said the deputy director. “West Virginians, we tend to come from a hearty stock and are pretty self-reliant. You’re not forgotten. We want to continue working to ensure that everybody gets back to some sense of normalcy.”

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