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Thousands without power after storm

Thousands of Lawrence Countians are still without electricity this afternoon after a massive storm swept through the Tri-State, uprooting, trees, snapping utility poles and causing headaches for residents and the public entities that serve them.

On top of the storm the heat wave that began earlier in the week persists. Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Boster said his office is open to serve those in need of assistance. The telephone number is 533-4375.

In addition, cooling stations have been opened to help those struggling through the heat wave and power outage. New Hope United Methodist Church, 111 Township Road 1130, Proctorville, and First Baptist Church at Fourth and Vernon street in Ironton will operate cooling stations from 1-8 p.m. today. Coal Grove Memorial Methodist Church is also offering relief from the heat.

In the case of all cooling stations, people using the facilities must be ambulatory, as there is no transportation available; visitors should bring limited snacks and drinks with them. The cooling stations will not be open overnight.

Downed trees and power lines, as well as structural damage to business and homes was the scene Friday evening after hurricane-like winds pushed through the area.

Wind speeds for the storm have been reported in the 80 to 85 mph range, stronger than Hurricane Ike’s 75 mph winds when it hit in 2008.

Todd Smith stood outside on his porch to survey the damage just after the winds knocked down one of his bradford pear trees onto a car parked in front of his house on Sixth Street.

“I looked out the window just in time to see it go,” Smith said. “I wasn’t even expecting a storm.”

Trees and large branches were down all over Ironton. Some had nearly missed hitting cars parked along the street. Some residents took to their chainsaws to clear the fallen trees from their properties.

Downed trees also impacted travel on U.S. 52.

On Saturday, Lawrence County Engineer reported the agency cleared trees to open roads until 5 a.m. The only closed road after that was County Road 181 (Hog Run) due to downed power lines, he said.

Police Chief Jim Carey also reported the street department was out and clearing debris.

High winds knocked over motorcycles. Trash cans, potted plants, roof tiles, lawn furniture and other debris was blown in all directions.

On South Third Street, a gust of wind blew the Plexi glass out of the tall, lighted sign. Employee Shane Russell, 19, described the severe weather.

“I just saw it through the window,” Russell said. “I thought it was hell. I looked out there and the sign was gone. … It was blowing everywhere. All over the street, the parking lot.”

Much of the sign and the bulbs had shattered into tiny pieces.

Employee David Gilmore, 20, rushed outside to pick up the large pieces.

“I just tried to get it as fast as I could,” Gilmore said. “I was worried it would bust the windows out of the cars. …You could hardly keep your eyes open.”

A little ways down Third Street, at Spruce Street, the vacant Trading Post building suffered damage also.

An entire wall of bricks from an upper floor has toppled into sidewalk below and scattered onto Third Street. A few people nearby rushed to clear the broken bricks from the roadway.

A short time later, the Ironton Fire and Police departments arrived to secure the scene.

Capt. Mike Hasenhauer of the fire department said the entire structure was unstable.

“The whole thing could come down,” he said. “All we can do is keep people away from it.”

The storm also caused widespread power outages.

Governors in Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia declared states of emergency.

AEP reported as of Saturday, more than 13,000 customers in Lawrence County are without power. That’s more than 53 percent of total customers.

Via The Tribune’s Facebook page, people reported outages in the Green Valley area, Brentwood Village in Chesapeake, Sheridan, County Road 6 at Kitts Hill, State Route 93, State Route 243 and State Route 9.

The outages effected about 633,000 customers in the state of Ohio. In total throughout Ohio, it was reported close to 1 million people are without power.

More than 1.4 million were impacted across AEP’s eastern service territory. These numbers are expected to increase as assessment continues.

AEP also reported restoration efforts are ongoing and still in the early stages of damage assessment. At this point, it is anticipated restoration will continue for at least five to seven days, with the majority of customers to be restored in that time frame. This estimate could change if additional damaging weather crosses the area.

In West Virginia, AEP reported more than 566,000 customers without power, including more than 30,000 in Cabell County alone. More than 60 percent of Appalachian Power’s customers in West Virginia and close to half of its customers in Virginia are without electric service as a result of the storm.

In Kentucky, AEP reported about 55,000 customers without power, including more than 13,000 in Boyd County and more than 7,000 in Greenup County.