Governor surveys damage in Proctorville

Published 1:28 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2024

PROCTORVILLE — On Friday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine flew down from Columbus to check out the damage that had befallen Fairland East Elementary School and the Proctorville Volunteer Fire and Rescue building after they were hit with 90 mph winds on Tuesday, April 2.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine takes a photo of a young boy who first took a picture of the governor during a visit to the Proctorville Volunteer Fire and Rescue building on Friday afternoon. (Ironton Tribune | Mark Shaffer)

DeWine said he came to the village because he likes to see things in person, rather than just read a report, but it is not the same.

“You can’t talk to people,” DeWine said. “I need to see where the unmet needs are to see if there is something we can do to help. We want to let people know they can call us if they do indeed need something.”

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He said that it was impressive how people came together so fast. He said they landed at Fairland West where they were already making room for students from Fairland East.

“Everyone is working together, that’s what is so impressive,” DeWine said.

He added that it was scary because so many people had little or no warning before the winds hit.

“Boom, it just happened,” he said. 

Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stephens was with DeWine on the tour.

“We are really appreciative of the governor coming to Lawrence County,” he said, adding that schools and fire departments are the anchors of communities. “Fortunately, everyone is pretty safe even if there was some damage to homes and businesses. It is minor to what could have happened.”

Stephens said they will be seeing what they can do on the state level to help out.

“We are going to do everything we can legislatively to be helpful,” he said.

DeWine said that if it is needed, they could declare a state of emergency.

“What that really enables us to do is pull in different departments from the state to do things they normally wouldn’t do,” he said. “If the speaker tells me there is a need for it, we are going to do it wherever it is needed.”

He said that a federal declaration of a state of emergency was unlikely.

“That’s what it looks like. But we are going to do what we can to fill in the unmet needs,” DeWine said.

Proctorville Mayor Bill Elliot showed DeWine the destruction of the fire station.

He said the village was more used to dealing with high water than high winds.

“I’ve lived in Proctorville for my whole life of 58 years and I have never seen anything like this come through here like this,” Elliot, who has been an EMT and firefighter for four decades, said.

He was headed to Huntington when the storm caught up with him and he headed back home.

“A piece of red sheet metal hit my car,” he said. Once he got home where his wife and two grandkids were, he told them to head the basement. After the winds stopped, he headed out into Proctorville to survey damage and make sure that people were all right. “Everyone said they were ok.”

He said the people of Proctorville showed their resilience on Tuesday and the days that followed.

“People were already out on Tuesday night, cleaning up their yards and messes. We were without power for three days and we made it through that. AEP got us back on,” Elliot said. “The biggest problem we had was this alleyway where the station blew up basically and the roof landing on the garage here.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine shakes hands with Proctorville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Thomas Thorton during a visit on Friday afternoon. (Ironton Tribune | Mark Shaffer)

AEP had to replace several poles and a transformer along the alley. Elliot said the phone and cable companies will have to replace their lines that ran along the poles.

He said firefighters are a diversified crew with some being plumbers, electricians and one of them runs bulldozers and excavators and helped with cleaning up some of the debris from the destroyed bay.

Elliot said the insurance company adjuster has been out but they haven’t heard back yet.

He said thanks to the efforts of the firefighters, city workers and the police department they were able to reopen the village after closing it down to the public on Tuesday.

“Within 24 hours, they got our ship up right,” Elliot said.

Proctorville Village Council president Michael John “Crawdad” Mays was on hand at the fire station to talk to the firefighters and said he was glad to see the governor.

“We need that,” he said. “It gives a real good boost and seeing the governor here makes you feel like you want to do a little more. We have a great community here. The way everyone came together, I am so glad to be a part of Proctorville.”