Crews, officials begin damage assessment from storm

Published 4:08 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Power restoration, flooding now biggest concerns

On Wednesday, following the derecho winds that hit the region, officials in Lawrence County and crews began the bulk of damage assessment from the prior day’s storm.

“It is just now getting to be safe to get into some of these areas,” Michael Boster, director of Lawrence County Emergency Management, said.

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Boster said there were no reported fatalities from the event, but he knew of at least one man who sustained injuries from the winds and was transported to the hospital from the north Ironton/Hanging Rock area.

Boster said, on Wednesday, he and local officials met with representatives from the National Weather Service to visit the sites that were heaviest hit.

He said a report would be made, but, at this point, it is estimated that some parts of the county received straight line winds of about 100 mph, but no tornado activity was suspected.

He said inspections of damage were done in Ironton, Hanging Rock and Proctorville, which were the hardest hit.

Boster said crews from AEP and Buckeye Rural were on hand, working to restore power lost in the event. He noted that restoration was prioritized for water and sewer service, as well as medical needs.

“They have brought in a tremendous amount of people,” he said of the utility workers. “And they are making good progress.”

Boster said his agency is working on creating a system in which residents can report damage to homes in order to have them inspected. He said details of that will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, he said anyone who had sustained major structural damage to a home and was in need of housing should contact the American Red Cross at 833-583-3111.

Ironton, in particular, was hit hard by the storm, though Mayor Sam Cramblit II said the bulk of the damage was in the city’s northern end.

“Once you get to Storms Creek,” he said.

Cramblit was among those who met with Boster and NWS officials on Wednesday.

“Now we are working on the logistics of getting things cleaned up,” he said.

As crews work to restore power, Cramblit said generators have been put into use for water and sewer needs, such as both tanks on the city’s water tower and at sewer lift stations.

Cramblit said the city is now preparing for concerns from flooding, with the Ohio River expected to crest at more than 50 feet.

“At 48 feet, we start putting up the flood gates,” he said.

The National Weather Service in Charleston said the river would crest on Saturday at 52. 7 feet, as water from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area worked its way downstream. On Wednesday, the river was reported at 40.5 feet. Minor flood stage, at 50 feet, was expected on Friday.

In Proctorville, Mayor Bill Elliott posted photos to social media of cleanup at the village’s fire department, which was damaged in the event.

He noted that AEP had come in “full force” and restoration of power for some areas was expected by Friday.

Elliott wrote that a tree company was in the area and doing clearing, while work was being done to restore electric at the water plant, but noted a backup generator was working. He said that village residents in need of water should come to the fire station, where cases were being distributed.

In neighboring Rome Township, Fairland West Elementary, which serves the Proctorville area, saw part of its roof damaged in the storm. A message on the school district’s website informed parents that students would be sent to other building when classes resume. Students will not report to school on Monday, after spring break ends, the district stated, in order to allow teachers time to set up temporary classrooms. Schools were already set to dismiss two hours early that day, due to the solar eclipse.

Power restoration was the main concern in the Village of South Point, where Mayor Jeff Gaskin said AEP had a large concentration of trucks at the strip mall on Commerce Drive housing Bellacino’s, in order to meet the large outages that took place there.

Several power lines were toppled on Solida Road, causing the closure of that street and North Kenova Road.

Gaskin said crews were optimistic they could get power restored in a timely fashion.

More than 400 homes in the village were reported without power from the storm.

Besides the power issues, Gaskin said there were several homes in the village with roof damage and downed trees, which crews were cleaning up.

He noted that Tuesday’s meeting of village council was canceled, as there were not enough members present for a quorum and that village hall, located on Solida Road, was among the buildings without electric. That meeting has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 9.

Gaskin said the village was using emergency generators for water and sewer. He noted that a recent $400,000 upgrade of the village’s sewer plant had included a generator.

“That showed us yesterday that it was a good investment,” he said.

South Point Council member Mary Cogan, who owns the South Point Storage and U-Haul on Solida Road, where the bulk of the poles fell, said on Tuesday she had been told by crews that they could have new poles by Wednesday and replacing them would not be a major task, though transmission poles would be more difficult.

The storm, which most local meteorologists are now categorizing as a derecho, hit the county in varying intensity, with some areas being impacted far more severely than others.

One municipality that largely escaped the effects of the storm was the Village of Coal Grove.

“We are thankful that God was watching over us and we have nothing to report,” Mayor Andy Holmes said on Tuesday night.

He said there was one tree that had blocked a road and crews had already removed it and all other damage was minor.

Holmes said, at the time, that village officials were watching the radar for a predicted second round of the winds, which, ultimately, did not occur.