‘Su­per storm’ cuts us a break

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROGER PIANTADOSI AND MATT WING­FIELD Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

There is some­thing to be said for life in an area where peo­ple own chain­saws and – more im­por­tant – know how to use them.

As in se­vere storms ear­lier this sum­mer and re­cent win­ters past, neigh­bors pitched in to clear sec­ondary roads while fire and res­cue vol­un­teers, sher­iff ’s deputies and VDOT crews cleared the rest. The Vir­ginia Pied­mont’s downed trees and pow­er­lines left by Sun­day night’s his­toric pas­sage of Hur­ri­cane Sandy through the mid-At­lantic – for those who had power and could watch it hap­pen on The Weather Chan­nel – paled in com­par­i­son to the dev­as­ta­tion vis­ited on New York City and the New Jersey coast.

But still, there is also some­thing to be said for elec­tric­ity – and as of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, more than 500 of Rap­pa­han­nock Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive’s (REC) 4,800-plus cus­tomers in Rap­pa­han­nock County were still with­out it (al­though the num­ber, which you can see on the util­ity’s “Out­age Cen­ter” on­line at myrec.coop, kept drop­ping steadily through

the day). REC spokesman Ann M. Lewis said Wed­nes­day that crews expected to have power back some­time Thurs­day to most ev­ery­one in Rap­pa­han­nock.

By Mon­day af­ter­noon, how­ever, more than three­quar­ters of the county’s homes and busi­nesses were re­ported to be with­out elec­tric­ity. Though it has the small­est to­tal of REC cus­tomers com­pared to sur­round­ing coun­ties, Rap­pa­han­nock had by far the high­est per­cent­age of out­ages. Sub­sta­tions near Amissville and Sper­ryville were dam­aged by Sun­day night’s winds, Lewis said, along with an un­usu­ally large num­ber of downed trees and snapped poles at higher, east­fac­ing el­e­va­tions, where wind gusts reached above 80 mph. “Sub­sta­tions are where the power starts, and if those go down you’re look­ing at se­vere dam­age,” Lewis said.

As re­pairs stretched into Wed­nes­day, Lewis said: “The ter­rain here has a lot to do with it. In the be­gin­ning, it was hard to even get to some places be­cause so many trees were down or there was flood­ing. It’s still our plan to have ev­ery­one back up by Thurs­day. There might be a few in­di­vid­u­als with­out power, but our plan is still Thurs­day.”

Sher­iff Con­nie C. Smith said she and her deputies found them­selves re­spond­ing al­most ex­clu­sively, late Sun­day and early Mon­day, to re­ports of trees and power lines down. “Ev­ery­one was pretty good about fol­low­ing the county ad­min­is­tra­tor’s in­struc­tions to stay inside and bunker down.

“We were busier than dur­ing the dere­cho [in June],” she said. “More trees were down. VDOT was a big help; they had two big bull­doz­ers. We tried to stay on top of it and cut up trees to keep the roads open but even­tu­ally we couldn’t keep up. So we gave them a call and they came in with the bull­doz­ers and got it cleared up right away.”

For the most part, less rain­fall than expected kept Rap­pa­han­nock’s many rivers and streams within their banks. Weather sta­tion op­er­a­tor David Yow­ell in Old Hol­low recorded 4.5 inches through Tues­day af­ter­noon; De­maris Miller, who has a weather sta­tion near Bat­tle Moun­tain, recorded 4.4 inches of rain. Six inches of snow fell Sun­day on Sky­line Drive, which was closed Mon­day by Shenan­doah Na­tional Park of­fi­cials.

Fur­ther west, some spots in West Vir­ginia got more than two feet of snow. Fur­ther east and north, some 8 mil­lion peo­ple were re­ported to be with­out power, and for those on the is­land of Man­hat­tan and along the bar­rier is­lands on the coast of New Jersey – where Gov. Chris Christie de­scribed the dam­age as “un­think­able” – it will be a long re­cov­ery.

Over­all, as Vir­ginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told the Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch, the state suf­fered “rel­a­tively min­i­mal dam­age.”

Photo by Roger Piantadosi/rap­phananock News

On Hunters Road near Wash­ing­ton, an anony­mous early-ris­ing neigh­bor with a chain­saw carry per­mit made pas­sage eas­ier the morn­ing af­ter the storm.

Photo by Jan Clatterbuc­k/rap­pa­han­nock News

A Rap­pa­han­nock Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive crew re­pairs downed wires along Fod­der­stack Road Tues­day af­ter­noon.

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