JULY 3, 2012
Appalachian Power has extended estimated restoration dates
A stubborn darkness
Gov. Bob McDonnell says at least 10 deaths are blamed on the storm
STORM RECOVERY CONTINUES
Peggy Bostic buys groceries Monday at the IGA in New Castle. Bostic, who lives in Craig County, has power, but the grocery store is still using generators to power its cash registers.
JEANNA DUERSCHERL | The Roanoke Times
By Neil Harvey | [email protected]
The start of the July Fourth holiday week found Southwest Virginia sweating through a third day of power outages and other unwanted leftovers from Friday and Sunday night’s punishing windstorms. Half a million customers across the state were still without electricity Monday, and the storms that tore down wires to cause those blackouts have also been blamed for at least 10 deaths in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced. And while National Weather Service reports have predicted
For more storm-related coverage, and to see video of cleanup efforts around the region, visit roanoke. com
Firefighter dies after stopping to offer aid
John Echternach was struck by a tree while he was pulling people from a crushed car.
By Chase Purdy and Neil Harvey The Roanoke Times
Deaths of Blacksburg man, Big Island couple also linked to storm. Page 5
a slight respite this week from the 100-degree heat that broke state records Friday and Saturday, Appalachian Power Co. updated some of its repair completion estimates by extending them a few days, in many cases
For a crew of Franklin County volunteer firefighters, it was a steady stream of emergency calls that kept their minds off of their grief Monday. The Boones Mill Volunteer Fire Department lost one of its own Friday night in a windstorm that wreaked havoc across the region and state. Lt. John L. Echternach Jr. was driving down U.S. 220, respond-
ing to a fire, when he came upon a car crushed by a tree. It was the last call the Roanoke County man ever answered, said firefighter and friend Steve Mills. Echternach, 54, pulled to a stop and began helping people from the car, Mills said. During the rescue, a gust of wind brought another tree to the ground. It struck Echternach, critically injuring him. When another firefighter from Echternach’s crew
See FIREFIGHTER, 5
John L. Echternach Jr. Stopped to assist at scene on way to a fire.
People rally to keep life fairly normal
The community social structure picked up where the utility infrastructure failed.
By Matt Chittum | [email protected]
because of storms that struck late Sunday and early Monday. Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski and Wythe counties, which tentatively had been scheduled to see power return by today or Wednesday, could now be waiting as late as Friday, the utility said in an online statement. Franklin and Henry counties’ repair date has been shifted from Thursday night to Friday night. As previously reported, Bedford, Botetourt, Craig and Roanoke counties are still slated to be back online by Saturday night. Appalachian
See RECOVERY, 7
If the romance between grandmother Donna Thompson and her septuagenarian beau wasn’t hot already, Saturday took care of that. Thompson, 54, formerly Donna Harrison Halls, wed G.W. Thompson, 72, that afternoon in a powerless, sweltering church before a crowd cooling themselves with cardboard fans from funeral homes. “We were all sweating like crazy,” Thompson said. “Just sweat pouring off of us, but we were still happy.”
Matron of honor Kathy Todaro fans bride Donna Thompson before the wedding at Peters Creek Church of the Brethren on Saturday.
Courtesy of Steven Norris Photography
See LIFE, 7
MORE COVERAGE INSIDE
After storm, Covington resembles ghost town
Customers shop by flashlight in Craig Co.
Power failures leave nursing homes scrambling
NATION & WORLD
Physicists say they have all but proven that the ‘God particle’ exists
New Fleming principal seeks school pride boost
Bridge - Classified 8 | Comics - Extra 4 | Crossword - Extra 5 | Lottery - News 9 | Obituaries - News 11 | TV Listings - Extra 2 | Classified - Sports 6
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
THE ROANOKE TIMES
STORM RECOVERY CONTINUES
Covington particularly hard hit
Friday night’s sudden storm tore down power lines in the business district and damaged buildings.
By Ralph Berrier Jr. [email protected]
COVINGTON — A tumbleweed would not have looked out of place in downtown Covington on Monday morning. The town was eerily quiet more than two days after a severe storm caused massive power outages. The sidewalks were empty. The occasional automobile drove slowly down Main Street, through intersections where traffic signals were dark. Just about every business was closed, with hand-written or laserprinted signs stating that they’d be closed until the electricity was back on. No cars were parked in the lot at the Quality Inn, where manager Renish Patel awaited the arrival of a generator he ordered from Raleigh, N.C. His hotel will be packed later this week with folks heading to The Greenbrier Classic PGA event in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. “We need it,” Patel said of the generator. “They say we won’t get regular lights until Thursday or Friday.” Friday night’s sudden storm tore down power lines in the business district, damaged buildings and left more than 4,000 of Dominion Virginia Power’s 5,000 Alleghany County customers without electricity by Monday morning. By late afternoon, power had been restored to approximately 800 customers. Damage was evident throughout the city. One block of Riverside Street was closed because of a tangle of broken power lines, broken glass and utility poles that snapped like matchsticks. The post office was one of the few operating downtown facilities, although all the heat-stricken staff could do was sell stamps. “That’s all we can do,” said supervisor Marianne Schott. Schott lives in Eagle Rock, where she had not had electricity since the storm blew through about 9 p.m.
Debbie Broadnax of Sterling grew up in Covington and was visiting her great-nephew when she stopped Monday to take a picture of Christ United Methodist Church’s damaged roof, torn off by the recent storms.
Photos by STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
Briana Hubbard (from left), 11, a family friend; Nathan Miles, 10; and his mother, Tonya Miles, came to Jeter-Watson Intermediate School in Covington on Monday, where the Red Cross provided meals for those dealing with the aftermath of the weekend storms and power outages.
Friday. She said that she was worried about being able to get water for her horses Star, Dixie, Fred and former racer Don’t Get Me Started. “I’ll have to take them for a walk down to the river, I guess.” The most dramatic damage hap-
pened to Christ United Methodist Church at Fudge Street and Highland Avenue. The wind ripped off the corner of the roof, tearing off bricks, wooden beams and boards, and leaving a 30-foot-wide hole. The sign out front read “Services
Canceled.” Aid stations were set up in several locations. The sprawling MeadWestvaco paper mill, the region’s largest employer, opened its training center to the public. More than 40 people spent Sunday night at the facility and dozens more ate free meals there Monday. Sally Steele, 81, said that her son and grandson both work for MeadWestvaco and had told her to go have lunch there. She dined on chicken tenders, macaroni and potato salad in a climate-controlled environment. “I am so sick of peanut butter and jelly, I could die,” she said. Steele’s property, which backs up to the Jackson River just outside of town, was strewn with upended walnut and sycamore trees. She and her neighbors faced a daunting cleanup task. “Everybody in the neighborhood is helping everybody else,” she said. The American Red Cross set up a cooling station and overnight facility in Covington’s Jeter-Watson Intermediate School. Volunteer Kathy Collins said more than 400
people came for free water and Gatorade on Sunday and 17 people spent the night. More people were expected Monday night. People at the school dined on spaghetti and made friends with people who sought refuge from the afternoon heat. Susan Carlson, 53, said she had read three novels. Nearby, Nancy Persinger, 78, held a stack of Better Homes and Gardens magazines. Both women suffer from health problems that forced them to seek assistance, they said. They were making the best of the situation. “People watching and reading, that’s about it,” Carlson said. Anthony Earle celebrated his 14th birthday at the Red Cross shelter. His mother had taken him there Sunday because of his asthma. When he awoke Monday morning, he figured no one at the school knew it was his birthday. Then, his mother, Natalie Earle, arrived with a chocolate birthday cake from Food Lion, which had power from a generator. “I’ll always remember this birthday,” Anthony said.
physical therapy at Jefferson College
When: 10 a.m. Saturday Where: Franklin Heights Baptist Church, 110 Hilltop Drive, Rocky Mount For more information: Contact the Franklin County Department of Public Safety at 483-3091, Ext. 4
Couple killed in house fire had long ties in Big Island
An official said it’s possible that damage from Friday’s storm was a factor in the deadly blaze.
By Duncan Adams and Neil Harvey The Roanoke Times
arrived on scene, Mills heard about his friend through radio traffic. “I could just tell from Stan’s voice on the radio that something was dead wrong,” he said. “I was trying to get back to Boones Mill, but all the roads were blocked with trees. I could never make it. I never did make it to that scene. I regret that I couldn’t.” Franklin County authorities said Echternach died at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital early Monday morning. He left behind a wife and two adult children, Mills said. Aside from his volunteer work, Echternach has practiced physical therapy since 1986. Echternach worked as an academic coordinator of clinical education at Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke and an assistant professor in the physical therapist assistant department. He joined the faculty in January, but officials said his family had a long history with the school. “His father is part of the advisory board for the physical therapy program,” said college spokesman Mark Lambert. “His wife taught with the program in different capacities for
almost 20 years. They’ve been very involved with the college for quite a while.” Before joining the Boones Mill fire department, he served with the Clearbrook volunteer fire department from 1992 to 2003. Mills said he expects a large number of public safety employees from across the region to take part in Echternach’s memorial service, which the family has yet to fully arrange. “There was just never any question that John would pull his duty,” Mills remembered. “Even when it wasn’t his duty night, there he was, ‘Lieutenant Seven, marking en route.’ ” It’s a voice he’ll miss.
981-3334 [email protected]
Bedford County authorities released Monday the names of the elderly couple killed when their home in Big Island was destroyed by a fire whose cause might be linked to Friday’s storm. Killed by the blaze, which was discovered early Saturday, were William M. “Bill” Benton, 96, and Edith S. “Edie” Benton, 97, longtime residents of Big Island. Mike Tomlin, a fellow member of Big Island Baptist Church, described the Bentons “as the finest people you could meet.” “Real Christian people,” Tomlin said. “In recent years, they stayed pretty close to home.” Big Island Volunteer Fire Company Chief Brandon Cocke said crews responded to the fire at Edmunds Court about 3:40 a.m. Saturday. He said the house was an older, two-story, brick country home.
“When we got there, there were power lines down behind the house as well as a very large tree down,” Cocke said. “We assume that played a role, but it’s still being investigated. “The fire definitely happened at the back side of the house.” It took about an hour to get the fire under control, Cocke said. The house was destroyed. A damage estimate was not available. Crews from five stations turned out to fight the fire, including Bedford County, Boonsboro, Forest and Glasgow. No one else was in the house at the time, and no crew members were injured. Cocke said he’d been told that the couple had a pet dog, but it was not accounted for Monday.
981-3324 [email protected]
William M. “Bill” Benton
Edith S. “Edie” Benton
n To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning,
Total number of customers without power as of 7 p.m. Monday
CRAIG CO. ROANOKE CO.
For the latest power outage estimates, visit appalachian power.com/ outages.
never run a generator indoors or inside a carport or garage or near a window or door. n Calculate how much power capacity you need before buying a generator. If you are unsure, consult with your local hardware store or with an electrician. n Portable generators are not meant to be used in rain or storms. Problems can arise if the generator gets wet, and there is a danger of lightning striking the generator in a thunderstorm.
Source: Generac Power Systems
Tree, high speed factors in fatality
Excessive speed and a tree downed by wind led to the death of a motorcyclist Friday night in Montgomery County. Daniel Gibson, 53, of Blacksburg, was killed about 10:20 p.m. in the 2700 block of Huffville Road in Pilot after his motorcycle barely struck a pickup truck, according to Montgomery County Sheriff’s Capt. Brian Wright. The truck, a 2003 Dodge, had stopped because of a fallen tree, and Gibson passed it on the shoulder at what witnesses said was a high rate of speed. Gibson clipped the truck’s side-view mirror and lost control. Wright said Gibson, who was wearing a helmet, was pronounced dead at the scene. No other information about Gibson was available Monday.
— Neil Harvey
SOURCE: aep.com, dom.com
The Roanoke Times
THE ROANOKE TIMES
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
STORM RECOVERY CONTINUES
Craig Co. residents pull together
Stores operated with flashlights and generators, and shelters offered respite from the heat.
By Annie McCallum [email protected]
In the small community of Craig County, where many still were without power Monday following the weekend of storms that whipped the area, people helped one another where they could. In one grocery store, that meant shopping by flashlight. New Castle’s Mick-or-Mack IGA opened Sunday and Monday without power, and staffers used flashlights to guide customers through the aisles. “It’s what you do,” said Lynne Price, an administrative assistant at the store, but Monday was leading people through the darkness. “We’re doing the best we can.” Price said the store opened at 10 a.m. Sunday. “Saturday we were just trying to get our wits together,” she said. To get things up and running Sunday, Price said she borrowed a generator from her daughter — her boss waited in line for one for 11 hours at a local store. As of Monday afternoon, the store was still being powered by generator. Craig County is served by Appalachian Power Co. and the CraigBotetourt Electric Cooperative, and plenty in the rural community had been without power for days. According to Appalachian Power’s website, of the county’s 1,027 customers, some 400 still were without power Monday evening. Shawn Hildebrand, the general manager of the Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative, said 2,100 Craig County customers were without power at the outage’s height. He said Monday afternoon about 250 customers still were without power, and the workforce had been tripled trying to get power back. Darlene Stanley and her family were among those still without power. They were shopping at the Mick-or-Mack IGA for food and trash bags to throw out food that had gone bad. She said the storm is the largest she has seen and her family’s home sustained significant dam-
age. A walnut tree from their yard slammed into their house, she said. The tree came straight up from the ground, roots and all, leaving a gaping hole in their yard, she said. She and her husband have cleaned the debris and boarded up the window, but their insurance company doesn’t know when an adjuster will be able to come out. “God blessed us,” Stanley said. “It could have been a lot worse.” A couple of miles away at Craig County High School, a dozen or so people filled the county’s cooling shelter. Heather Matheney, the shelter manager, said the shelter moved from the New Castle Fire House to the school on Sunday to accommodate more people. She estimated that shelter officials gave out 190 meals on Monday and have had 15 to 20 people staying at night. Veni Krolicki and her husband, Stephen Krolicki, were among those volunteering at the shelter. At home they have a generator, but no power. The two retired nurses were there to provide any medical assistance, though they said not much was needed as of Monday. “We just want to help whoever needs help here,” Veni Krolicki said. When Friday’s storm hit, the two said they were at the movies in Christiansburg. The theater interrupted the movie to ask customers to move to the lobby because of inclement weather. Eventually, the Krolickis got home through the storm-ravaged roads in the dark. “It was like chaos,” Veni Krolicki said, with trees down on the road. Denise Garvey and her mother, Donna Alley, rested on cots at the shelter while they played a game of checkers. They said they’d heard power could be out until Saturday. Alley said the storm was like a hurricane moving through, and when it was over, her yard was covered in downed trees. “It’s just been devastating,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to cry and then go on.” They both said they didn’t know what they’d do without the shelter. “Everyone is great up here,” Garvey said. Her mother agreed. “People are trying to take care of people,” Alley said.
Bradley Christian (from left), David Robertson and Steve Jones remove juice from the Mick-or-Mack IGA shelves in New Castle. The store has no electricity but is still serving customers by using generator power.
Photos by JEANNA DUERSCHERL | The Roanoke Times
Denise Garvey (left) and her mother, Donna Alley, play checkers at a cooling station set up in the New Castle High School cafeteria. Officials said the shelter was moved from the fire station to help more people.
Weather pattern not changing
Southwest Virginians caught a break from both the storms and extreme heat Monday afternoon — if you can call a high of 94 at Roanoke a break. It was 10 degrees cooler than Friday. But there has been no significant change to the overall weather pattern that has brought both a heat wave and rounds of severe storms, other than the core of the heat having moved a little farther away from us. Today and the Fourth of July promise much the same as we have seen. Highs in the 90s are forecast in the Roanoke Valley south and east, with upper 80s to low 90s in the New River Valley and westward. Our region remains on the northeastern edge of the “heat dome” that has brought a record heat wave to much of the South. That means northwest winds aloft remain, which bring with them a chance of additional storm complexes moving out of the Ohio Valley toward Southwest Virginia. Other more typical summer storms may develop in the heat and humidity closer to home. Locally strong winds are possible with any storms that develop.
— Kevin Myatt
How governments throughout the region are handling the tons of fallen tree limbs and other debris
County landfill accepting residents’ brush and storm debris at no charge for rest of month.
Fourth of July outlook
Highs in the 90s are forecast in the Roanoke Valley south and east, with upper 80s to low 90s in the New River Valley and westward.
Public works crews will continue brush collection as long as necessary. Brush should be brought to the curb for pickup.
No charge to drop storm debris at the county landfill. Because some areas of Botetourt County have residential pickup, residents need to contact their neighborhood’s contracted pickup company for its brush cleanup plan.
Brush and debris will be collected on regular pickup days. Brush must be no longer than 4 feet and should be sorted into separate piles for logs and large tree limbs, loose leaves and trimmings, and small limbs.
Elder care facilities face dire challenges
Many nursing homes had generators for medical equipment but not for AC or cooking.
By Sarah Bruyn Jones [email protected]
The county landfill will waive the fee for people to bring in brush through Saturday. Containers have been placed at several sites for people to drop off trash and storm debris: Hardy — Hardy Road; Glade Hill — Colonial Turnpike; Scruggs — Scruggs Road; Burnt Chimney — Burnt Chimney Road; Boones Mill — Church Hill Street.
Butch Carter purchased as many fans as he could find Saturday. Bill Van Thiel threw a party complete with frozen watermelon, outdoor grilling and endless John Wayne movies. Russ Barksdale rented a generator big enough to power the air conditioning inside the state’s largest nursing home. All three are responsible for patients living in nursing homes that have been operating on limited power since Friday’s storm. Carter said he spent about $2,000 making emergency purchases of fans and other items to keep the 80 residents at South Roanoke Nursing Home comfortable. “We bought every fan we
could find, about 100 of them,” Carter, the facility’s administrator, said Monday. “Every patient room has at least one fan.” While the home had some power to meet the medical needs of patients, its generator wouldn’t support the air conditioning. Throughout the region that stretches from Roanoke west to the New River Valley and east to Lynchburg, 18 longterm care facilities went dark or had to rely on generators for power, said Danielle Lissberger, executive director of the Near Southwest Preparedness Alliance. In the Roanoke and Alleghany Health District, seven nursing homes lost power, but all had generators to help restore at least some emergency power, said Virginia Department of Health spokesman Robert Parker. Of those, five remained without power Monday evening, he said. In the New River Valley Health District, two nursing homes lost power, but both had been restored, Parker said.
Van Thiel, the administrator at the Virginia Veterans Care Center in Salem, said he kept the 220 patients at his center well fed by cooking outside on gas grills. And as the CEO of Friendship Retirement Community, Barksdale was responsible not only for keeping residents of Friendship’s nursing home cool, but also meeting the needs of those in the assisted living and independent living facilities on the community’s sprawling campus. Some of Friendship’s independent living apartments were entirely without electricity, leading the staff to go door to door and check on all the residents. Cooling rooms were set up in buildings that had electricity powered by one of the campus’ five generators, with meals and ice provided. Ice was a hot commodity, as it was needed not only for cooling drinks, but also for keeping medicines, such as insulin, at the proper temperature. Friendship’s health and rehab center nursing home
didn’t have air conditioning until Sunday, when the extra generator arrived at 4 p.m. from Northern Virginia. Nineteen patients from Friendship who needed dialysis treatments had to be driven to North Roanoke Dialysis, said Sue VanHousen, the longterm care administrator for Friendship. Van Thiel said he, too, considered renting a generator Monday as he waited for full power to be restored. He had located one for $14,000 a week and another for $26,000 a week. While the Veterans Care Center had lights, and one of its four elevators was operating, staff and residents had to endure the heat without air conditioning and improvise on some of the daily needs. Ice was driven in from Christiansburg and Rocky Mount using the facility’s giant laundry bins. Food was cooked on outdoor gas grills. By late Monday afternoon, Friendship and the Veterans Care Center were restored to full power.
Brush collection will run in order of city quadrants: northwest on Monday, northeast today, southeast on Wednesday and southwest on Thursday. Brush collection will be operating on Wednesday, though regular trash collection will not be. Brush must be cut down to no more than 4 feet long. Brush must be set out on the roadway in order to be picked up. People who have an excess of brush or trash, including spoiled food items, can bring things to dumping or transfer stations themselves. There is a transfer station at 1020 Hollins Road where Roanoke and Roanoke County residents may deposit their garbage and debris.
Bulk and brush will be collected all week from homes on the county’s “A-week” rotation, including on Wednesday’s holiday. There will be no trash collection Wednesday. Brush in the county must be no longer than 6 feet in order to be picked up.
Brush pickup proceeding without any major changes to the garbage pickup schedule.
Picking up brush on the regular garbage pickup schedule.
— Emily Mosh
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
THE ROANOKE TIMES
STORM RECOVERY CONTINUES
Shelters offer cool havens for powerless
The Salvation Army, Red Cross and other agencies have opened 16 cooling and overnight facilities.
By Chase Purdy [email protected]
Denise Clifton was sitting at her computer Friday night when the lights went out. She waited. Nothing. By Monday evening, Clifton, a Roanoke woman, said her home still was without power. She was one of many across the region, all victims of the same severe storm system that swept through the area and left downed trees and power lines in its wake. Without electricity, those who did stay in their homes did so in a sweltering 90-degree heat. Across the region, 16 cooling shelters were opened by localities. Clifton found herself at one at the Roanoke Civic Center, where the Salvation Army was providing chili dinners. “I had to throw out all my food,” Clifton said, as she ate her meal on the steps of the civic center. Nearby, Jennifer Masker
of Roanoke ate alongside two new friends, a father and son in similar straits. Masker met the pair — Michael and Paul Sheets — while staying overnight in the civic center shelter, where volunteers with the American Red Cross doled out cots and blankets to more than 100 people seeking a cool place to sleep Sunday night. “I was watching the car show when it happened,” Masker said, recalling the storm. “The wind was unbelievable. I could barely hold my chair down. I’ve never seen anything like it.” “It looks like a war zone around Roanoke,” Michael Sheets said, shaking his head. The trio checked their respective homes Monday, but power hadn’t been restored. So they returned for another night in the shelter, housed in the special events portion of the civic center. Not everyone who visited the shelter stayed overnight. Betty Cunningham and her three grandchildren stopped by for a break, taking in the cool air
Andrew Tillman, 12 (lower left); Alan Tillman, 9; and Caithlin Tillman, 7, relax Monday on a cot in a Red Cross overnight shelter at the Roanoke Civic Center Special Events Center.
KYLE GREEN | The Roanoke Times
in the large showroom space. A ro u n d Cu n n i n g h a m , overnight guests had lined the walls with their cots. Some people were napping. Most of the young children were laughing and playing in what might seem an oversized rumpus room. Hearing about the free chili dinner, Cunningham gathered her grandchildren and set out
for a meal. T h e S a lva t i o n A r my brought enough food to feed more than 1,500 people, said Lt. Travis Roberts. Only about 100 people turned out for food, officials said. Roanoke Fire-EMS spokeswoman Tiffany Bradbury said the Salvation Army would try coordinating with Valley Metro for lunch and dinners today.
Back in the shelter, Brandy and Robert Browning, both of southwest Roanoke, relaxed on their cots. The couple arrived at the shelter Saturday afternoon to escape the heat. Robert Browning, a diabetic, said he needed to keep out of the heat for medical reasons. “It’s not home, but we’ve got a place to sleep and it’s cool,” Brandy Browning said. “And
they’re doing their best to feed us.” Bradbury said 90 people and two dogs were staying at the civic center shelter Monday night. People there commended the Red Cross and Salvation Army for their services. “They’ve done a tremendous job,” Brandy Browning said. They were less understanding of Appalachian Power Co. “It’s just getting old,” Brandy Browning said, bemoaning what she described as a lack of communication from the power company to the public. “I have found out more from friends on Facebook with husbands who work at AEP [the power company] and tree removal services than AEP,” she said. “I know they got slammed with back-to-back storms, but I’ve been down twice to southwest Roanoke and I have yet to see a truck.” Others, such as Peggy Brown and her son, Chris, kept dissatisfaction to themselves. They just hoped for their electricity to return. “We’ve been praying for it,” Peggy Brown said.
Storm on Sunday night set back efforts
People found ways to help their neighbors
frefrigerators and freezers were packed with wedding food. So everyone worked together to get everything on ice. Someone borrowed a generator, and Palmer’s daughter’s boyfriend wired it up so the reception would have lights and music. Other than a groomsman passing out from the heat, it call came out fine, though later on, someone suggested that the bride and groom should have come down the aisle to Johnny Cash’s “We Got Married in a Fever.” “I have the most wonderful family in the world. They worked so hard to bring this off,” Palmer said. Unexpected warmth of the human variety abounded outside of weddings, too. At intersections where traffic lights remain dark, police officers have stood for hours in the sweltering heat to direct traffic. Some have been rewarded by passing motorists who gave them bottled water and Gatorade. “I don’t know who it was,” Roanoke County acting police chief Terrell Holbrook said. “But I’d like to say ‘Thank you’ to whoever it was.” All over the area, those without power bunked with friends and family, bringing pets and food they didn’t want to spoil along with them. Russ and Stacey Danstrom of Salem had parts of three different families staying with them at different times through weekend and into the new week. Meals consisted of food rescued from refrigerators in powerless homes. Stacey Danstrom said she had six gallons of milk in her fridge, with the space made by drinking the beer that was there before. “It’s been like a party every night,” she said. At Mack McGee’s house on Jefferson Street in Roanoke, where the power was restored Monday afternoon, the outage brought out other simple pleasures. He hauled out an old camping stove and made bacon and eggs and perked coffee every morning. He figures with no power the hottest weekend of the year, he’s saving on his electric bill, the fridge got a thorough cleaning, and the absence of other distractions made for good family time. “There was no TV to watch, and, you know, nothing really to do but sit on the back porch and chat,” he said. “We could complain all we wanted to about [power company] AEP,” he said, “or we can just have a good time.”
includes Roanoke within its repair estimates for Roanoke County. Monday night, more than 31,000 customers remained in the dark in Roanoke and Roanoke County, home to approximately 94,000 customers combined. On Monday, Roanoke’s government declared the city was in a state of emergency, which will allow for use of any federal funds that become available to pay for the weekend’s damage. Power outage percentages in surrounding areas on Monday ranged from the midteens in Floyd and Franklin County, to 30 percent and 40 percent in Pulaski and Giles counties. Craig County, home to about 1,000 Appalachian customers, had the highest outage rate of about 80 percent to 90 percent most of Monday. “It was unexpected. We were expecting a typical thunderstorm and it ended up being a major wind event,” said Billy Wagner, manager of Appalachian’s distribution dispatch center in Roanoke. Ordinarily when heavy snows or rains are threatening, Appalachian is able to stage crews in advance. “We didn’t have that luxury this time,” said company spokeswoman Jeri Matheney. “It basically impacted all of AEP, which basically runs from Indiana all the way to the southern areas here,” Wagner said. “If we knew it was coming before, we would’ve tried to get those resources first. “We have not had a storm of this magnitude. There’s going to be a lot to learn because of the magnitude of it,” he said. Matheney said at least 40 linemen were active in the Roanoke Valley the day after the storms hit. “We didn’t have all the people we brought in. We only asked for them Friday night,” she said, but added that additional workers, including damage assessors, line contractors, right-of-way workers and other technicians, have been summoned. “There’s an estimated 2,000 requested, on the ground or on the way. Almost all of them are here at this point,” Matheney said. Salem, which distributes electricity through its own system, reported on its website Monday that only a handful of residents remained without power in the city. Other recovery efforts in the Roanoke and New River valleys were complicated Sunday night by additional storm winds that tore through communities already on the mend, such as Pulaski County Near the close of the weekend, power had been restored to all but about a quarter of the county’s 35,000 residents, but rain and high winds Sunday night raised the figure of those without electricity back up to 40 percent, assistant Pulaski County Administrator Robert Hiss said.
Danny Eames of Chamblissburg in Bedford County said Friday he collected about 60 gallons from Villamont Spring as “scrub-a-dub-dub-water.”
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Pulaski’s volunteer firefighters and rescue departments also have been run ragged by heat-related health emergencies and brush fires sparked by downed power lines, Hiss said. In Bedford County, Big Island Volunteer Fire Company Chief Brandon Cocke said the weekend marked a dramatic shift from the norm for his crews. “We ran 11 calls that day [Friday into Saturday] — that’s a lot for Big Island. In February, we ran eight. We have about 150 to 200 a year. Eleven in one day is unheard of,” he said. Cocke said he believed the storm was the cause of both the spike in activity and a house fire that took the lives of an elderly couple. LewisGale Medical Center saw 345 patients in its Salem emergency room from Saturday to Sunday, compared to a typical volume of 250 patients, spokeswoman Nancy May said. The hospital attributed most of the ER visits to the storm, she said, adding that the three other hospitals run by LewisGale Regional Medical Center experienced similar influxes in emergency room visits. Carilion Clinic also saw demand for its hospitals’ emergency rooms increase between 4 percent and 8 percent across the region, spokesman Eric Earnhart said. At Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, the region’s busiest hospital, slightly more than 500 patients visited the ER from Saturday to Sunday, he said. The blackouts also wreaked havoc on basic necessities. About 500 homes in Vinton remained under a boil water advisory Monday after two pump stations were knocked out of service by a power outage. Due to low water pressure or no water at all, officials advised as a precautionary measure that drinking water be boiled in the Wolf Creek, Chestnut Mountain, Victoria Meadows and parts of the Falling Creek subdivisions. Potable water is available at the Vinton War Memorial. Late Monday, town officials said
power had been restored to the pump stations and water service would soon be resumed. However, the boil notice remained in effect until further notice. Meanwhile, countless people across the region who rely on private wells had to do without water if they had no electricity to power their well pumps. Those people were advised to pick up potable water at numerous locations offering it to drink, and to use that or other water to fill their toilets enough to be flushed. Cox Communications customers, even those with power, may have to wait days before their Internet, digital phone and cable television are back on, according to a company spokesman. “Somebody could have power restored in their neighborhood, but there could be physical damage to the cable structure,” Mike Leone said. “We follow behind Appalachian Power.” For now, Cox is still assessing the toll of the storm damage from Friday and Sunday nights. Leone estimated that about 24 percent of its customers in the greater Roanoke area are without Cox services. Thirty-two Roanoke intersections were without power Monday, down from 50 earlier in the day, and police worked to signal motorists through some of the city’s busiest exchanges. Also in the city, six streets remained blocked by downed power lines, which municipal workers cannot move. They’ll have to wait for Appalachian Power crews. In the meantime, Appalachian spokeswoman Matheney said people should use care in clearing storm damage, particularly limbs that have fallen near lines. “We really don’t want people to do that if there are lines anywhere near. It’s just too dangerous,” she said.
Staff writers Sarah Bruyn Jones, Laurence Hammack, Chase Purdy, Michael Sluss, Tonia Moxley and Mason Adams contributed to this report.
The withering heat and Friday’s damaging storm sure caused hardships, and even death. But through it all, there were those who found ways around the inconveniences of power outages and the dangers of extreme heat to go on with their lives — usually with the help of friends and family. The conditions, as they often do, brought out some of the best in people, from those who took in friends without power to those handing cold bottles of water to cops directing traffic in sweltering intersections. “All of my friends and my family, they made it so easy for me,” Thompson said. Her matron of honor got her law office to open so the wedding party could use the bathrooms to dress. A daughter brought a battery-powered boom box for the disc jockey to use. Power was out at Peters Creek Church of the Brethren, but someone found a box of cardboard fans from local funeral homes in the back of the church and handed them out. The minister gave everyone a “warm welcome.” “Every time we ran into an obstacle, they came up with a solution,” Thompson said. It was the same in Vinton at the wedding of Jacob Palmer and Karina Coronel. With an outdoor wedding and reception planned for the Braeloch facility off Hardy Road, the heat was already going to be an issue. And then the storm hit — after Palmer’s mother and other family and helpers had set up the chairs and the reception tables. White table cloths, mirrors, candles, silverware, cloth napkins embroidered with the names of the bride and groom, and, in keeping with the “Southern country elegance” theme of the wedding, jars of strawberry jam. The wedding party was at the rehearsal dinner when the storm hit, said the groom’s mother, Linda Palmer. With the wind howling, her mind went first to those tables. “I was afraid it was going to look like a massacre with the strawberry jam,” she said. It wasn’t that bad. No jam jars broke, but the silverware and napkins were thrown around, and a mirror or two broke. The open shelter where they were set up was full of debris. It would all have to be cleaned and reset. A niece told Palmer, “We did it today, we can do it again tomorrow.” But the power was out, and the
“There was … nothing really to do but sit on the back porch and chat.”
Mack McGee | Roanoke resident