Mid-Ohio Valley dodges worst of heavy rains

PARKERSBURG – A series of storms that blew through the Mid-Ohio Valley overnight Thursday were more sound than fury and left little damage in their wake, but heavy periods of rain late Thursday morning caused issues throughout the area.

“There were no major calls or injuries,” said Tommy Dotson with the Wood County 911 Center. “The calls were the usual trees down and power lines, but no major flooding or injuries; this storm was not what we were expecting, thank goodness.”

Carl Sizemore, assistant director of Wood County 911 and deputy director of the Office of Emergency Management, said authorities received few reports of damage or issues stemming from a series of storms, which started late Wednesday evening and into Thursday morning.

Sizemore said 911 received one report of a car that had slid into the median on Interstate 77 near Rockport Thursday morning, but no other issues were reported.

The late morning storm Thursday included thunder, lightning and heavy rain that caused roads throughout the area to become waterlogged, forcing drivers to slow down, but caused no major issues, Dotson said.

“We were lucky,” he added.

Greg Hefner, a spokesman for Mon Power, said the company had 18,572 customers without electricity as of 4 p.m. Thursday throughout West Virginia.

The largest number of those affected in the northcentral region was in Wood County, which had just shy of 4,000 in the dark.

“A broken pole in the Lubeck area is the source of the majority of that number,” Hefner said.

The majority of those without power are expected to have it restored overnight, but because the outages throughout the area are scattered, it could be as late as midnight Saturday, Hefner said.

“We will make significant progress this evening, but other smaller issues will take some time to wrap up,” he said.

An additional 40 linemen have been called in from Ohio to help with the issues in the Parkersburg area.

Another 751 customers in Roane County – primarily in Spencer – were without power, mainly because of flooding following the heavy rains.

Although it has fewer power outages, Roane County was the heaviest hit, with the storm dumping an estimated three inches of rain within a two-hour period. The water made roads impassable and flooded buildings, including the 911 Center in Spencer.

All 911 traffic was diverted to the Jackson County 911 Center.

Because of the severity of the flooding, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a State of Emergency in Roane County after two waves of heavy rain caused flash flooding.

“Because of the narrow valley in the Spencer area, the water had nowhere to go,” said West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director of operations Terrance Lively.

Many were left stranded because of the high water and five water rescues were done early Thursday morning, he said.

“After those, there were no other calls for rescue, which I hope means everyone got out all right,” Lively said.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross in Parkersburg sent six local volunteers and another five or six from the Charleston chapter to Spencer to help with the shelter at the National Guard Armory, said Todd Wines, emergency services director for the Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“It is pretty bad over there and since there have been no calls for our aid locally, we are going to where we are needed,” Wines said. “What happened in Spencer couldn’t have been more of a freak accident.”

Wines said he has been in touch with local emergency management officials and they know to contact the Red Cross if they are needed.

West Virginia State Police advised motorists to avoid roads near Spencer because of high water.

Between Wednesday night and early Thursday afternoon, about two inches of rain fell in Parkersburg in less than a 12-hour time frame, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.

“Right now things are really winding down,” said Tom Mazza, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston. “The cold front moved through, which makes things drier.”

While Wood County was not part of it, other counties in the area, including Washington County, were issued flash flood watches because of the expected amount of rainfall.

“The flash flood guides indicated we could handle that amount of rain in the Ohio River Valley in six hours because it had been so dry,” Mazza said.

After the front moves through, the area will experience cooler, drier weather without the threat of heavy rainfall.

“We are looking for a nice weekend, by and large, and the next rain event is expected late Sunday,” Mazza said.