CHARLES TOWN – Power company crews won’t take a break for Wednesday’s Fourth of July holiday.
Workers will continue with 16-hour shifts until homes left without power after Friday night’s massive windstorm are back on the grid, said Scott Surgeoner, a FirstEnergy spokesman.
“Oh yes, we’ll be out on the Fourth,” he said. “Our customers are first and foremost and we’ll have crews in the field 24 hours a day, seven days a week until every last customer has power restored.”
As thousands in the Panhandle continue to endure the heatwave that began Friday morning, health officials invite anyone without power in need of a place to cool off to a free cooling station.
The one set up at the Jefferson County Health Department at 1948 Wiltshire Road in Kearneysville also will be open on the Fourth, officials say.
“We’ll be set up all week,” said Jennifer Maggio of the Jefferson County Homeland Security & Emergency Management.
The health department will have free bottled water and ice to distribute starting at 1 this afternoon at T.A. Lowery Elementary School at 103 Shenandoah Junction Road in Shenandoah Junction. For more information, please contact 304-279-4858.this afternoon. Those interested may call 304-279-4858.
Martin’s supermarket in both Charles Town and Martinsburg will distribute free water and ice to those in need, thanks to a partnership between Red Cross, the FirstEnergy power company and the grocery store chain, Maggio said.
The health department’s cooling station will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at least through Friday. Power company officials have said it may be the weekend before all West Virginia homes have power again.
Weather experts predict temperatures today will reach 95 degrees, with afternoon thunderstorms again in the forecast.
Another cooling station has been set up at St. Andrews Mountain Community Center, the stone building on the corner of W.Va. 9 and Mission Road in Harpers Ferry. The center will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Saturday. For more information, leave a message at 304-885-0195.
Other options for locals struggling with the heat:
• Parents can bring their children to the gym at Sam Michael’s Park at 1102 Job Corps Road in Shenandoah Junction. Showers also will be available for those who don’t have electricity or water at home, according to Maggio. The facility will be open until 6 this evening.
• Harpers Ferry/Bolivar leaders are hosting a cooling shelter at Camp Hill United Methodist Church at 601 E. Washington St.
in Harpers Ferry. The center will be open until further notice.
• In downtown Charles Town, Community Ministries is providing emergency shelter for the homeless only
at 238 W. Washington St.
Those with questions about the cooling stations or who need transportation to the health department may call 304-728-8416.
Businesses are stepping in to help out, too. Vivo Day Spa in Harpers Ferry donated money to buy dozens of Happy Meals for young people whose families lacked power.
River Riders at 408 Alstads Hill Road in Harpers Ferry is planning a free cookout with burgers, hot dogs and side dishes for Jefferson County residents this evening. “We know a lot of people still don’t have power and can’t cook dinner,” said Liz Guidroz, the company’s marketing exec. “We love this community and want to give back where there’s a need.” Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP to Guidroz at 304-535-2663.
Friday night’s powerful storm uprooted trees, downed power lines, blew out office windows and roofs, crushed parked cars and trucks, dented buildings and created other havoc.
Few in the Panhandle could recall ever going so long without power.
The widespread, straight-line windstorm – officially called a derecho, from the Spanish word for “straight” – left devastation from parts of Indiana and Ohio through Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and D.C.
The storm and its aftermath is being blamed for more than a dozen deaths so far, including an elderly Maryland woman who was killed in her bed when a tree fell on her home and those who died in weather-related traffic accidents.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley described the storm as “historic” and he, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin all declared states of emergency.
Many restaurants and hotels in the Panhandle have been extra busy since the storm. By Sunday, many locals had checked into the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown – which offered discount rates – and other local hotels for a respite from the heat. They also crowded into eateries seeking hot food, chilled drinks, the chance to cool off and to power up cell phones and laptops.
Maggio notes that the Jefferson County Emergency Operations Center is still activated. Non-emergency calls will be taken at 304-725-5001 or 304-728-6345 between through 8 tonight. Residents should continue to call 9-1-1 for emergencies.