Some Kanawha County residents remained in the dark Tuesday after Monday evening’s tornado took down trees and utility poles in its path from Alum Creek north through Charleston and up along the Elk River.
The tornado took down power lines and toppled trees into homes and cars across Charleston and South Charleston. Despite the heavy damage, no deaths were reported to Kanawha Metro 911.
Late Tuesday, the National Weather Service rated the twister an EF-1, with wind speeds up to 90 miles per hour on the Enhanced Fujita scale. By comparison, an EF-5 has wind gusts well over 200 mph.
Appalachian Power estimates that Kanawha County will be restored to full power by 10 p.m. Thursday. Many of these customers should see power restored by late Wednesday, Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said in a news release. However, in places where damage is most severe, restoration could extend into Thursday, he said. Residents in Logan and Mingo counties were expected to have their power back by 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Less than 14,000 customers, mostly in Kanawha County, were without service Tuesday, but damage assessments were continuing. Earlier Tuesday, that number was 20,000.
The tornado started southwest of Charleston around Alum Creek and moved southeast of Corridor G and then went north through South Hills and then into downtown Charleston, according to the National Weather Service.
Weather Service meteorologist Ray Young said the last time he recalls a storm of that severity hitting Charleston was in the late 1990s, coming from Ohio.
Monday evening when the storm began, the Charleston Fire, Public Works, Police and other departments were out in force, city officials said.
Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin started going door-to-door at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, with Mark Strickland, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. They spent a great deal of their time in South Hills, which saw a substantial amount of damage.
“I had never seen this much damage done within the city limits,” Goodwin said. “The  derecho was a wide swath of land. This seems like just as much damage in a condensed area.”
While out doing wellness checks, Goodwin met the Osborne family. After the storm, Hersey and Verna Osborne, like many Charlestonians, lost power and their backyard was covered by fallen trees. But what was on the forefront of Verna Osborne’s mind was her insulin.
Without power, she couldn’t refrigerate her insulin, but it would be too cold if she kept it on ice. It can last for 28 days at room temperature, but Osborne said she feared it might get warmer than that.
“I could go into a coma without it,” Osborne said.
During her tour of the storm-damaged area, Goodwin met many people like the Osbornes who were in need of a way to refrigerate their medications.
Strickland was with Goodwin to provide advice on situations such as this. He suggested wrapping the insulin in a washcloth and then putting it in the cooler on top of ice.
For those people whose medications spoiled during the outage, they can get one-month supply of medications from West Virginia Health Right.
“We realize that insurance companies will often deny early refills, and we do not want anyone going without their prescriptions,” Angie Settle, chief executive officer of Health Right, said in a news release.
Some medicines, such as insulin, need to be refrigerated and might not be salvageable with prolonged power outages. Health Right won’t dispense any controlled drugs, the release said. Anyone needing prescription assistance should call 304-414-5933.
In the course of the next few days, Goodwin said, she plans to hold community meetings, but the details have yet to be worked out. She said she is grateful no one was killed by the storm, she said.
“God was definitely looking over Charleston, West Virginia, but it’s going to be a tough next couple of days,” Goodwin said.