Gov. Justice West Virginia emergency crews team up in response to hazardous winter weather

2/19/2021

CHARLESTON, WV – Several State agencies have teamed up on emergency response efforts in southwestern West Virginia after a stretch of severe winter weather, including a series of snow and ice storms, caused numerous power outages, road blockages, and other hazards over the past week.

Following Gov. Jim Justice’s State of Emergency declaration in Cabell, Jackson, Lincoln, Mason, Putnam, and Wayne counties, an array of emergency response teams sprang into action. The West Virginia Emergency Management Division coordinated with several State agencies, including the West Virginia State Police, West Virginia National Guard, West Virginia Division of Highways, West Virginia Department of Environmental Resources, and others, including several local and county partners, to clear roadways, help utility crews reach downed power lines, perform wellness checks on residents, and more.
“The last few weeks have been tough, but that’s just how West Virginians are made. We’re made to be tough and pull together to help,” Gov. Justice said Friday. “I’m proud of our first responders who jumped in to help, and I’m proud of all the West Virginians who help their neighbors, not just today, but every day.”

WV Emergency Management Division
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the WVEMD has relied on technology more than ever in leading the State’s robust emergency response efforts; relying on virtual platforms to coordinate with representatives from partner agencies who would normally be physically present in the Emergency Operations Center.

The WVEMD is fielding all requests for assistance from county emergency managers and assuring all parties convene to address requests for assistance.

The WVEMD also assisted with water system concerns in Fort Gay and Kenova by providing generators to get them back online. They also helped the Department of Environmental Protection coordinate to repair sewage issues at Fort Gay.

Emergency Management officials also coordinated with the Division of Natural Resources to clear roads so AEP crews could repair remote power lines, and coordinated with the Division of Forestry to get chainsaw crews out to counties so roads could be cleared and allow for welfare checks to be performed.
The WVEMD is working with all utility providers around the clock to gather up-to-the-minute information and assure the state’s critical infrastructure continues to serve West Virginians.

“It’s important we be ready at a moment’s notice to help West Virginians during severe weather and other emergencies,” said WVEMD Director G.E. McCabe. “Sometimes, emergencies overwhelm one area, so it’s crucial to have people who are willing to work together for the good of others.”

WV State Police
The WVSP has sent manpower and resources to aid in emergency response efforts in Wayne County, splitting the county into four quadrants. Four teams are working in the county, while three additional teams are currently being put together.
The WVSP is assisting the WVEMD, Division of Highways, and the West Virginia National Guard by clearing trees from roadways where necessary to make homes accessible. Troopers have also been a part of the teams conducting welfare checks to homes; making sure people are warm, and if not, taking them to warming stations.

WV National Guard
The WVNG is utilizing three LMTVs (Light Medium Tactical Vehicles) and two Polaris UTV teams, supplied with three chainsaw teams and other debris-clearing tools. The teams are being used to check on those in rural areas without power and to clear routes while advancing into weather-stricken areas.
The Joint Operations Center (JOC) has also pushed their mobile command/communication unit into Wayne County for better command and control and rapid response. The teams are performing door-to-door welfare checks, as well as “knock-and-talks” in counties where travel options are limited for residents due to snow and/or debris blocking routes.

As of Friday morning, 13 welfare checks have been performed, while WVNG teams continued clearing impassable roadways. Thus far, WVNG teams have found no issues with residents that they have contacted.

WV Division of Highways
WVDOH crews are moving quickly to assist their co-workers in the areas of the state hit hardest by the ice storms that have swept across West Virginia. 

The counties included in Gov. Justice’s State of Emergency include those that are part of the WVDOH District 1 and District 2. WVDOH leaders from these districts say the week-long series of ice and snowstorms was as bad or worse than the 2012 Derecho in some parts of their districts.
As a result, District 1 is receiving extra help from District 7, District 8, and District 9. Meanwhile, District 2 is receiving extra help from District 4 and District 10, with additional assistance expected from District 5 next week. In total, 11 WVDOH crews are currently working in District 1, while 30 crews are working in District 2. Contractors that were hired under emergency rules also mobilized throughout District 2 today to assist with clearing roadways of snow, trees, and any other debris.
WV Department of Environmental Protection
The WVDEP’s Environmental Enforcement staff and Homeland Security Emergency Response unit have been coordinating with wastewater treatment plants in the area and stand ready to provide assistance wherever possible.

Local / County partners
The team approach also included assistance from several local and county partners.

Mercer County 911 personnel helped repair generators for several signal towers essential to the State Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN), which is relied upon by first responders.

The Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department also pitched in to help restore SIRN communications, delivering a Putnam County radio technician to a remote site in need of repair. 

The Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority dispatched medics and a supervisor to assist National Guard teams conducting health and welfare checks.

The Kanawha County Office of Emergency Management helped organize those wellness checks through a dedicated phone line for affected residents.

Logan County’s Office of Emergency Management and the Danville Volunteer Fire Department from Boone County provided ATVs and personnel to clear trees and deliver fuel for SIRN tower generators.

Wood County Office of Emergency Management Director Rick Woodyard delivered a trailer of cots, heaters, and other supplies to the WVEMD warehouse in Rock Branch, where they are available to county emergency management agencies.

A Boone County Emergency Management Agency drone allowed responders to survey a SIRN tower site to see if access was possible.

Multiple VFDs assisted with cutting trees and transporting technical personnel into the area.

Several other county emergency management agencies provided fuel for the SIRN generators, along with personnel to repair and maintain them.
 
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Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

Contact

Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:
304.558.3588

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