W.Va. outages now below 12,000, Mon Power says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nearly half of the fewer than 12,000 customers who remained without power Friday after superstorm Sandy were in Preston and Randolph counties.About 11,900 Mon Power customers remained without service late Friday morning. FirstEnergy's website showed that nearly 3,100 of those were in Randolph County and 3,000 were in Preston County.But the utility has brought in more crews and aims to have service fully restored by the end of the weekend.Sandy dumped as much as 2 feet of snow in West Virginia's higher elevations, knocking down countless trees that tore down power lines as they fell. At the height of the outages, nearly a quarter-million people were without power."I know there are some folks still waiting for their power to come back on," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement Friday. "I'm staying in close contact with the power companies and want those customers to know I am continuing to devote all state resources to making sure all power is restored as soon as possible."He urged all West Virginians to report structural damage caused by the storm to their local emergency management offices. Damage reports submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency will support the state's request for a federal disaster declaration, which would provide both public and individual assistance.The Division of Natural Resources said employees at Blackwater Falls State Park, in Tucker County, have been working with no power, heat or hot water since the storm hit Oct. 29. Superintendent Rob Gilligan said Sandy dumped 30 to 50 inches of snow, depending on where it's measured.
Blackwater Falls typically gets 150 inches of snow during a normal winter and ski season."This storm generated almost one-third of our normal winter snowfall in less than 24 hours," Gilligan said, "and it isn't winter yet in the valley."Power might be restored there this weekend.Also hard-hit was Cathedral State Park, in neighboring Preston County, a 133-acre tract of virgin hemlock. Ranger Eric Risinger said trees have fallen atop all the buildings and blocked trails.Cathedral is closed until some of the more than 24 inches of packed snow melts and the trees can be removed. Conventional plows have struggled to remove the snow, which was unusually wet and heavy.The West Virginia National Guard had about 300 members on active duty Friday afternoon, but Sgt. Anna-Marie Ward said that number was expected to drop below 200 on Saturday.Guard teams are focused on stream reconnaissance, she said, looking at debris areas and "possible choke points" in the areas that were hit hard with snow.
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