Just as weather in West Virginia began to calm down following a midweek winter storm, another complex storm is expected to sweep into the state late Sunday and remain through Tuesday, producing “all winter precipitation types possible,” according to the National Weather Service.
Meanwhile, on Friday, an army of nearly 700 Appalachian Power repair workers gained ground in their effort to restore service to nearly 50,000 homes and businesses in seven Southwestern West Virginia counties left without electricity after the storm swept into the area early Thursday.
By midday Friday, the number of homes and businesses left without power in the seven counties had dropped from Thursday’s high point of more than 47,000 to about 31,000.
More than half of the outages in hard-hit Wayne County had been repaired and restored to service, leaving about 6,300 homes and businesses still in the dark Friday.
In Cabell County, where almost 20,000 ice-storm outages were reported Thursday, service had been restored to 13,500 of those homes and businesses. Putnam County saw its number of outages drop from more than 8,000 to 5,364.
In Jackson County, service had been restored to more than 600 of its 2,500 customers left without power, while Lincoln County’s outages dropped from more than 1,100 to 760 and Kanawha County’s from 1,342 to 896.
Progress was slower in Mason County, where 2,145 remained without power Friday, following 2,188 outages on Thursday.
Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said all customers in Jackson and Mason counties are expected to have their power restored no later than 10 p.m. Saturday, while those in Cabell, Wayne, Putnam and Lincoln can expect to have their power back on no later than 6 p.m. Sunday.
“The vast majority of customers will see their power restored well before the overall completion estimates,” Moye said.
Friday’s power restoration effort was hard-fought: Repair crews often found themselves battling the same ice and prolonged freezing temperatures that caused the huge cluster of outages.
With Friday’s high temperatures lingering several degrees below the freezing point, tree limbs continued to be weighed down by thick accumulations of ice from freezing rain, allowing many branches to reach the snapping point and fall onto additional power lines, causing new outages.
Meanwhile, black ice and ice-downed trees falling across roads slowed the response time to repair sites, according to Moye.
Appalachian Power’s restoration workforce included 370 power line repair crew members, 180 tree removal specialists and 88 damage assessment experts, Moye said. About 200 of the nearly 700 repair workers now restoring power to the ice-damaged areas are from power companies in Ohio and Indiana that have mutual-aid pacts with Appalachian Power.
Charleston is expected to be exposed to a variety of gloomy weather possibilities Saturday, with daytime showers possible, followed by the chance of patchy snow, drizzle or freezing drizzle Saturday night. On Sunday, sleet, rain and freezing drizzle are possible, with rain and sleet likely Sunday night.
More sleet is expected to fall on the Charleston area Monday, sometimes mixed with snow, followed by a 60% chance of snow on Tuesday, according to the Weather Service.