Firsthand Accounts: Parts of WV, Ohio "Apocalypse" due to the Derecho

I first posted this on 7/2/12 at 11:05 a.m. This photo is used by permission from Tina Thomas (@Grannytt). This is preliminary blog post to get the word out. Check back often as it's being updated. The most recent update was on July 8 at 9:41 a.m.

Please help us spread the word of the storm's effects. If you're on twitter, here's a tweet:

Please RT, spread word 1st hand reports #WV #OH #Derecho #Appalachia Apocalyptic bit.ly/N4ceBa
Here's a public version of photo and link to this post which is up behind the "facebook garden" gate, which you can share:

Please share via all your social networks and news aggregators, such as Stumbled Upon. Remember that Aaron Bady got all those hits on the post about Maria because someone shared it to Redditt. So many,even locally,have no communication on conditions other than through social media.

Unexpected wind gusting above 80 miles per hours through parts of Appalachia affected us here in Blacksburg and the Roanoke Valley of Virginia, but things were inconvenient, rather than dire (excluding the fatalities.)Our electric coverage was a patchwork, which meant you could drive further down the road and find gasoline, restrooms, water. Such was not the case in most of West Virginia and Eastern Ohio.

Tina Thomas lives on the Kanawha River in Arbuckle, WV

She has open skies all around her. She told me via twitter that she took the above picture in Leon, WV looking west towards Ripley Friday evening as the storm was moving in. I have another one she took looking east towards Point Pleasant. She's a priority electricity customer, because she shares the grid with Urgent Care of Leon County in Buffalo, a small facility for rural folks in WV. She explains,
Without this some out on the back roads would have to drive one hour or more for help.
She and the urgent care and "only" went without power for 26 hours...
Believe it or not, that is what it looked like to the West.
Bob Kincaid lives in Fayette County, WV

Kincaid, has been Board president of Coal River Mountain Watch. He runs the internet radio network, H.O.R.N. On July 1 at 1:18 p.m., he wrote me
Here's what I know at this point:

This is my third trip to Summersville since the storm hit. I'm trying furiously to get my generator going to afford us a little relief.

Gasoline is available at the Sheetz and a few other places in Summersville.

Ice is a distant memory. Haven't seen a single place where it's available. This is where the Nat'l Guard should be providing relief: ice, water and MREs.

WalMart is sold out of camp stoves, propane, lantern fuel, ice chests and gas cans and batteries. So is every other store.

Sheetz is to be commended. I've seen a tanker truck there every time I've been here. They seem to be treating the situation with the gravity it deserves.

I have not seen a single Nat'l Guard vehicle in the times I've been out. No state troopers, either.

And yes: I reiterate: Earl Ray Tomblin's [campaign] website entry page is some silly stuff about writing a letter to the EPA over the so-called "War on Coal." Nothing about the emergency, nothing about safety, nothing about relief efforts. He should be roundly excoriated for his inaction.
At 2:30 p.m., he added,
I saw my first Nat'l Guard Vehicle today: a Hummer pulling into the Taco Bell in Summersville.
Lorelei Scarbro lives in Raleigh County, WV

Scarbro, the widow of a coal miner volunteers full-time at the Boone-Raleigh Community Center, which she helped found and of which she is the Board Chairwoman. She emailed me on July 3, 2012 at 7:26 p.m.
I was in Whitesville this morning. No power and I did see the national guard unloading a truck of water at the fire station. That water was going to clear fork because they have no power or water. I saw only one truck and one Hummer..no food just water. No tornado the streets were clean axnd empty.

We need so much more. I stopped and asked the fire chief what I could do. He asked if the community center was open. I said no because we have no power. If we had power we could be cooking for people.  I am looking forward to the day when we can fill the roof with solar panels.  Me and mine are ok.
I first became aware of how bad things were elsewhere when I received an email

Documentary filmmaker Mari-lynn Evans lives in Akon, Ohio, but has family in Braxton, WV. She sent word through via a friend at 11:45 p.m. on June 30, calling the situation "Apocalyptic."

Things haven't improved much.  As another friend pointed out, we don't have the military and National Guard defending us from the police. No one is trying to shoot us. Almost all the houses are still standing. There are no people being left behind, forgotten about in hospital and jails.But here, folks are still in a bad situation and the government response appears lacking.  And we're dealing with high temperatures and lack of water.  As Mari-Lyn explained,
Driving in the darkness with nothing open for hours felt so eerie.
Another passenger in the car said
it was like being in a Steven King novel. It is a horrible situation for so many living in this state of disaster.
As if it weren't enough that folks weren't already dealing with poisoned water from chemical and coal industries. I wondered when the national media would start covering events. Marilyn posited:
I think no one knows this is happening because so few of us are able to get this info out due to no phones or computers.
How would folks in the national media find out what was happening?

I would have not known how bad things were, if  I not received had first-hand accounts.  Mari-Lyn was emailing and posting to her facebook page.The email lists we are on are closed to most media so that folks can talk freely. The facebook page requires that you be her "friend."  The accounts in the paper and the releases from the governor's office were so bland and minimized the damage.  The tweets from WV media weren't using the hashtags #WV #Derecho.

Here are some samples of what I was learning

Below, you'll find emai posts from Mari-Lyn and from Elisa Young, a paralegal in Ohio, used by permission.

In an update, I'll be posting from others as I receive permission. But before I update, I want to report, in a separate post, on FEMA in Fayette County, one of the areas hardest hit and complaints that feeding decisions are being skewed by the PGA tournament at the Greenbrier.  Then I'll be back to add more accounts.

Mari-Lyn Evans, Saturday, June 30, 2012,  11:45 p.m.

I'm In WV. It's desperate. No food water gas. Post email help!!!!!! If near WV bring food and water. Oxygen patients flooding hospitals. Many people with no phone service or gas to get help, water or supplies.

Post this to our Facebook. If you can come into wv with food water and check on people. I have not seen 1 emergency vehicle. People in hollers with no way to get help or leave. No one going house to house to check. 79 50 all clear no traffic. Come with aid

Where...is the national guard.  Cars and people are stranded at closed gas stations. No gas or lights from Parkersburg to Clarksburg. Then none in Braxton Upshur or Lewis Co.  Apocalyptic.

At the time, the Corps of engineers was not letting people use the facilities at Huntington and Burnsvillle.  By 7:02 p.m. the Corps of Engineers had unlocked the gates at Burnsville Lake, but the situation was still dire.  Her family in Buckhannon had reported lights have just come on there, but St Joes Hospital was not taking patients.  By this morning, things were still dire.

Mari-Lyn Evans,  Monday, July 2, 9:47 a.m.

Just off with Joe Manchin. They are calling Tomblin re Guard and State Police checking on people and setting up communication and help.


They did not know where any Guard was in WV. That is Tomblin's to do apparently.

I told them how desperate the situation was on the ground, that no one can get out word to get help.

I organized 4 trucks of food and water to go into Braxton County this morning. But, I have no idea how to help other than to help in the small area where I have family.
Mari-Lyn Evans, Monday, July 2, 9:47 1:22 p.m.
No one is in their offices. No one.
We are the few who are able to get calls out.
Posting everything I get to FB.
Elisa Young, Sunday, July 1, 12:01 a.m.
We are facing the same thing in Ohio, at least SE - Kasich is sending help to Cincinnati and central Ohio,has said the urban areas are the priority, but has said only when they are done there are they sending any help here.

I got stuck in Vinton County last night . It was like a typhoon. Just from the people there at the camp who were calling home, the electricity ...was completely out from Lancaster to Jackson, Marietta, and Meigs. At least a quarter of the state. I was low on gas, and when I got back to Nelsonville in the morning, the line for the only gas station open was farther than I could see the end of. I waited for two hours and then the police said another station had opened in Nelsonville and flagged us away. Waited another hour and a half at the next gas station and two people tried to fight me for the gas I'd paid for, but got enough to get home, where there was no water or electricity.

The electricity is on now, The [City of ] Athens County was made a priority, but they said it will be sporadic and they expect it to go out again. Still no water. More storms are coming through Monday and Tuesday.

It's been like a scene from a Steven King novel. The emergency help may be tied up somewhere, but it's not in this quarter of Ohio.
Elisa Young, Sunday, July 1, 8:18 a.m.
Aside from re-posting to friends, local lists and facebook. If we can't get down there, is there someone we can be calling to put pressure on for help?
Elisa Young, Sunday, July 1,  9:25 a.m.
Are toll roads open or does anyone know who to check with on that - state highway patrol?
Elisa Young, Sunday, July 1, 12:17 p.m.
Our electric is back on now, but neighbors keep knocking on the door. We have five families on the same well, happens to be in our house, and the water is still out....Landlord not responding.

A friend from Meigs just called me - I left her a message early Saturday to see how she was. She had been standing in line at the gas station that's open to charge her cell phone so she could have communication. Everything still out there.
Elisa Young, Sunday, July 1, 12:38 p.m.
...Mobile homes and 100 degree weather aren't a good mix with senior citizens without a hospital or ER in the county and gas supplies no guarantee if you can get there.
Elisa Young, Sunday, July 1, 12:44p.m.
[My friend in Miegs] has no cell coverage from her home - land line requires electricity to work with the type of phone she has. Had to drive to the gas station that was open to charge her phone and get cell coverage.

The county is sparsely populated - no cities, no hospital, university, or population density to make the county a priority.

I remember we always got the bulk of the pollution, dead last, bottom of the barrel service. I remember AEP telling me the reason they would not go to the expense of insulating the high tension power lines that ran across the community (they have the technology to reduce electromagnetic radiation), was that there weren't enough people to justify the expense.

Same old same old.
Elisa Young, Sunday, July 1, 12:48
I've been asking people here about injection well issues on the wells that require pressurization, when the power went out, and where they were actively injecting. MariLynn raised a good point about the impoundments. Would be a good idea for people to check on those near them - have never known industry to go out of it's way to report problems.
Elisa Young, Monday, July 2, 4:04 p.m.
On the way down to Meigs last night to check on some people and take food, I saw at least 30 repair trucks high-tailing it through Athens County headed toward Columbus. I was assuming to re-restore electricity.

It was strange going up to Columbus this morning for the press conference on the frack waste testing results. When I got to Columbus, it was business as usual.

The people I met there from Cleveland had no clue what was happening to the South.

NPR news also said that 20,000 additional people in SE Ohio were left without electricity after last nights' storm, bringing the total in the bottom two-thirds of SE Ohio to 243,000 homes without electricity.

They said power in Meigs/Gallia Counties won't be restored until Thursday at the soonest (7 days from when it went out) - we were dead last on the priority list and they listed Wellston specifically in their own category within the county list. Wellson is in Meigs County, where homes were blown off their foundations into the road by the winds - they are predicting electricity will be restored in Wellston, Meigs County, by next Tuesday. (12 days)

NPR also announced that the National Guard had been dispatched to central Ohio due to the power outages