Mobile Bunkhouses Deployed for New Crews Riding Herd on WV Power Outages
BARBOURSVILLE — Appalachian Power crews from Virginia joining the struggle to restore electrical service to more than 50,000 West Virginia homes and businesses will have a warm place to rest after an encampment of mobile bunkhouses was established in a Huntington Mall parking lot on Friday.
The first 250 occupants of the encampment were expected to arrive Friday night, after completing power restoration work in the Roanoke, Virginia, area and making the drive to Barboursville. They will later be joined by other line workers and tree crew members as they complete restoration work at other Virginia locales and are redeployed to the icy landscape of Southwestern West Virginia.
Only about 3,000 Appalachian Power customers in Virginia remained without electricity Friday, and most were expected to have service restored by the end of the day, according to the power company.
“We have 800 beds on site now, but, due to COVID distancing restrictions, we’ll only be using half of them,” said Appalachian Power’s Jamie Beckelheimer, who was helping prepare the camp for its first arrivals. “But everyone who gets pulled up here from Virginia should now have a room.”
The planned transition of 250 power restoration workers from Virginia to West Virginia on Friday leaves about 750 repair workers in Virginia to complete any remaining work to be addressed Saturday. Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 of their counterparts remain on the job in West Virginia.
The Barboursville encampment now includes 27 bunkhouse trailers, each divided into multiple sleeping pods, each containing six bunks — although only three will be occupied.
The pods are equipped with mattresses, bedding, reading lights, heating units, and electrical and USB outlets. The camp also includes trailers filled with shower stalls and tarp-sheltered portable toilets, warmed by portable heaters.
The trailers that make up the encampment, supplied by Emergency Disaster Services of Lexington, Kentucky, began rolling into the mall Thursday afternoon. By midday Friday, they were ready to be occupied.
Portions of the Huntington Mall parking lot also are being used as staging areas for contractors working with Appalachian Power.
Outages in West Virginia and Virginia began occurring Feb. 10, when the first in a series of ice-bearing winter storms swept into the region. At one point, nearly 100,000 homes and businesses in Southwestern West Virginia were left without power, as trees and tree limbs burdened by thick coatings of ice toppled across power lines.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, about 52,000 Appalachian Power customers still lacked electrical service, according to a news release from the company. Counties most affected by the outages are Cabell, where 17,383 customers remained without service late Friday; Wayne, where 14,550 customers still lacked power; and Putnam, with 6,160 outages yet to be restored. In Lincoln County, outages late Friday totaled 5,797, while 2,906 were reported in Jackson County and 2,724 in Mason County.
Repairs to three Appalachian Power substations knocked out of service by the storms were expected to be completed by the end of the day Friday. The heavily damaged Wayne County substation is expected to take longer.
Most customers in Putnam, Jackson, Lincoln and Mason counties should have their power restored by 10 p.m. Monday, while most of those lacking power in Cabell and Wayne counties should see their service restored by 10 p.m. Tuesday, the company said. For many customers in those counties, restoration will occur earlier, while some isolated, individual outages might take longer to repair.
Helicopters and drones have been used to locate and assess damage, according to the power company.
Snow flurries could occur over the western portion of the Mountain State on Saturday, but no accumulation is expected, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures in the area are expected to rise into the upper 40s on Sunday.