Virginia responds to worst ice storm in two decades: ‘It’s all hands on deck’

Severe Weather

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — This weekend’s ice storm shut down roads and shut off the lights for hundreds of thousands in Virginia.

On Monday, much of that damage remained. State agencies and power companies described it as the worst ice storm the Commonwealth has seen in more than two decades. Officials say the recovery won’t happen overnight.

By 6pm on Monday, more than 91,000 power outages were ongoing in Virginia, an improvement of at least 40,000 customers throughout the day. The worst hit counties–largely in Central Virginia–had between 78-92% of customers without power at 11am. At that time, Virginia was one of three states with more than 100,00 thousand power outages, along with Texas and Oregon.

Gov. Ralph Northam said the weekend was busy for the Virginia State Police, the Department of Transportation, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the Secretary of Public Safety. Officials responded to hundreds of car crashes and are currently collaborating to clean up debris.

“We have a number of roads that are still closed, especially on the south side working towards Petersburg and Lynchburg,” Northam said at an event on Monday morning.

Dominion Energy is hoping to finish power restoration for more than 290,000 impacted customers by the end of Tuesday, with 6,000 crew members working in the field.

“We are getting some help from our crews in South Carolina so it’s all hands on deck,” said Dominion Spokeperson Jonathan Costen.

The Southside Electric Cooperative, which serves some of the most impacted counties, didn’t give a timeline for complete power restoration, though a press release noted it could take ‘several days.’

“Even with our extensive preparations this monumental storm dealt a significant blow with up to ¾ inches of freezing rain forming on trees and power lines. One issue that our crews continue to face is impassable secondary roads due to downed trees. Crews are clearing the trees with chainsaws to be able to get access to the seriously damaged infrastructure in order to restore power for our members.”

SEC Operation Vice-President Brad Furr

VDEM Deputy Communications Director Jason Elmore said the agency is still trying to figure out how many people were displaced by the storm and how much the damage might cost.

“Some storms take months to years to fully recover from damages. Not only the physical damages but the financial damages as well,” Elmore said.

Elmore said state leaders are still considering applying for federal assistance.

Meanwhile, VDEM is providing logistical support to localities. Elmore said three shelters were opened over the weekend but they’ve since closed.

Power companies are reminding customers to keep their distance from fallen lines and to report issues immediately.

Elmore is also reminding people to use portable generators safely. He said VDEM has gotten 5-6 recent reports of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Make sure it is outside. You don’t put it inside the garage or within 10 feet of your house because those fumes can get into your house and cause carbon monoxide poisoning or ultimately death if it’s enough of it,” Elmore said.

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