Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a statewide state of emergency late Friday evening after a powerful storm caused widespread damage and knocked out power to most of the state.
The storm moved swiftly into the area after 6 p.m. Friday evening. Accuweather.com reported the storm was moving at 80 miles per hour as it moved into the state. Wind gusts were clocked at over 90 miles per hour.
The storm knocked out power to over 500,000 state residents, according to a release from the Governor’s Office. Appalachian Power reports that over 68 percent of its West Virginia customer base is without power as a result of the storm. Hundreds of thousands are also without power in other parts of the state.
Kanawha County emergency officials reported over 1,900 calls to Metro 911 Friday evening. Officials said 16 people were taken to the hospital with injuries as a result of the storm, three were serious.
Accuweather.com reported a possible funnel cloud in Ripley. Eyewitnesses said they saw a small funnel appear, but did not see it touch the ground.
The state Department of Transportation reports over 200 roads are closed statewide as a result of the storm. Many traffic signals are also out due to power outages. Officials ask that people treat intersections with inoperable stop lights as if it were a 4-way stop sign.
Appalachian Power reported earlier Friday evening that it was bringing in over 200 crews to begin repairing damaged lines.
With his emergency declaration, Tomblin said he is bringing the full resources of the state to bear in an attempt to restore power and repair damage. The governor also recommends people utilize emergency shelters and check on neighbors, as temperatures are forecast to reach 103 degrees tomorrow.
Here is the full release from the Governor’s Office:
GOVERNOR TOMBLIN DECLARES STATEWIDE STATE OF EMERGENCY
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced tonight that he has declared a state of emergency for the entire state of West Virginia in the wake of this evening’s powerful storms. The storms have left an estimated 500,000 people without power as a result of outages in at least 27 counties. The statewide emergency declaration will allow all government resources to be devoted immediately to helping those in need and restoring power as soon as possible.
“The damage from today’s storms is widespread and in many places severe,” said Gov. Tomblin. “With temperatures near 100 degrees expected this weekend, it’s critical that we get people’s power back on as soon as possible. We’re committing 100% of our state’s resources for as long as we need to get this cleaned up.”
West Virginians without power should stay as cool as possible and drink plenty of water. The elderly and others susceptible to extreme heat should consider moving to an air conditioned location or seeking help if they feel that their health is threatened. All West Virginians are urged to check in on friends and neighbors who may need assistance, and to call 911 in the event of emergency.