Winter storms strike county again, ice results in winter emergency, power outages

360

After a warm early portion of winter, Switzerland County was hit by heavy snows last week. This week, heavy rain was followed by ice during Tuesday evening – which resulted in the shutting down of many county services on Wednesday.

Many Switzerland County residents were without power on Tuesday night, as workers from REMC tried to restore power after the ice pulled down power lines. Officials from REMC said that more than 10,600 customers in the southeast area were without power due to the storm; and some customers were being told on Wednesday morning that power may not be fully restored until today (Thursday) at the earliest.

The loss of electricity also impacted Patriot Water Utilities, as no electric meant that the pumps at the Patriot water wells were not working. This loss of pressure caused some concerns over fire protection in some parts of the county, and also caused health officials to issue a water advisory.

On Wednesday morning, Switzerland County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Scott Frede and Switzerland County Public Health Coordinator Roger Hollingsworth issued a “boil water advisory” for everyone who is served by Patriot Water.

This advisory is in effect until further notice.

Tuesday night’s storm also forced the Switzerland County Emergency Management Agency to declare a “Level 3” snow emergency throughout the county.

According to Switzerland County EMA, a “Level 3” emergency means:

“All roadways are closed to non-emergency personnel. No one should be out during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel. All employees should contact their employer to see if they should report to work. Those traveling on roadways may subject themselves to being cited.”

That emergency closed the Switzerland County Courthouse on Wednesday, and by mid-morning on Wednesday, EMA had elevated the emergency to a “Level 2”:

“Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Only those individuals who feel it is necessary to drive should be out on the roadways. Contact your employer to see if you should report to work.”

*

Tuesday’s power outages and winter weather also resulted in EMA choosing to open emergency shelters for residents at around 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

Shelters were opened at Jefferson-Craig Elementary School; the Moorefield Firehouse; and the Old Pleasant School for anyone who needed a warm place to stay.

Those going to the shelters were advised to bring personal items, medications, and bedding; and a call was also issued to any volunteers with snowmobiles, four-wheel drive vehicles, or Hummers who were willing to help transport people to the shelters who had no way of leaving their homes.

Everyone was also asked to conserve water until the emergency is over and power is restored.

For those still in their homes, Switzerland County Sheriff Nathan Hughes says that people need to check on their neighbors, particularly elderly people who are living alone. For those living in areas where the electricity is off, it is even more important to keep track of neighbors and others.

Anyone needing any help should call the Switzerland County Sheriff’s office at 427-3636 or Emergency 911.

People should also remember to pay special attention to pets and outdoor animals during this time. Make sure food and water are available, and that water bowls are cleared of ice on regular intervals.

*

The Switzerland County Highway Department was out in force dealing with the winter weather.

Highway superintendent Edd Cook said that although EMA had raised the snow advisory from a Level 3 to a Level 2, drivers around the county should still be very careful, particularly in the upper regions of the county.

“Traffic is not getting any better out in the hills,” Edd Cook said. “Vevay’s different. Right now things in town are getting better, but when you get out in the hills, it’s a different world.”

Edd Cook said that the highway department worker has been treating county roads with a combination of salt and cinders, but that the cold temperatures are hampering those materials from helping with the roads.

As temperatures rise, the salt and cinders should begin to take hold on county roads, but Edd Cook said that most roads need some sunshine to raise that temperature, and right now it’s not happening.

“Everyone needs to watch out for emergency vehicles and trucks if they are out on the roads,” Edd Cook said. “If people don’t need to get out, then they need to stay home. The roads are still pretty dangerous in different parts of the county, and people need to know that.”

Edd Cook said that Lake Geneva Road was still closed to traffic as of Wednesday morning, as workers from REMC were in that area working on power lines and downed trees. Edd Cook also said that many county roads have tree limbs and other debris on them as a result of the storms.

He also noted that the loss of electricity in many parts of the county had resulted in the loss of water pressure to Patriot Water, and that the county was closely monitoring that situation and working with REMC in anyway needed.

“That’s a pretty serious problem,” Edd Cook said of the Patriot Water situation.

*

National weather forecasters were stating that the Switzerland County area got between one and three inches of ice and snow over Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. While temperatures continue to be below freezing, forecasters are calling for the possibility of more snow today (Thursday) and again on Saturday and Sunday.

The weekend holds the biggest chance for more accumulation, but Monday is expected to bring some relief before the chance of snow returns for the remainder of next week.