One year later: Hupp says officials learned from storm

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Emergency Management Director Ed Hupp said officials learned from the June 2012 derecho and efforts are still ongoing to be better prepared if such a disaster occurs again.

“One of the biggest things we learned was how dependent we are on electricity and technology,” Hupp said. “We were literally all in the dark for awhile, the whole county was about 100 percent down for about seven hours. The storm came so fast, we had no more than gotten the warning then it hit, even the National Weather Service, I think, was surprised at the speed of the storm and it knocked out the NWS in Charleston for awhile it was so widespread,” he said.

Hupp said there was backup power for the mobile command unit, and the 911 center, and backup at the Parkersburg Municipal Building when the phone lines went down and the 911 center had to move to the city building. Hupp, whose offices are at the Core Road Center, said he relocated temporarily to the justice center.

“Most of the radio towers were up and running, we had backup to two or three of them, we are still working on trying to get enough funding to get backup power for all of them,” Hupp said.

There are 11 different sites in the county with some type of emergency responder equipment on them, some are repeaters, while others are different types.

“Some had battery backups but they eventually went dead. In the south tower, the batteries went down and it’s a remote area. It was out awhile and that is one of the ones we are trying to work on to get funding for a generator backup. We are looking at all means for the funding, local, state, federal,” Hupp said, adding that in addition to the generators, there is an expense involved with the necessary hookups.

The EMS director said officials have been able to get some backup generators for some of the fire departments that did not have them through military surplus, but they would like to have backups for all departments.

“Some had them before the storm, more have them now, but we are still working on more,” Hupp said.

Fuel supplies were also a problem during the storm.

“The (West Virginia) Department of Highways had fuel, the airport had backup power, the county is working on getting backup power to its fuel tanks. We are all working on those issues. The airport has a large tank where fuel can be stored up there,” he said.

Hupp said the numerous meetings with government officials and emergency responders were helpful.

“We got updated contacts, we talked about ways to improve communication,” Hupp said, noting efforts to address emergency needs, like power at the critical areas like the hospitals, providing people on home oxygen with assistance and providing help to public service districts so they could get water service back online were all issues faced by the emergency officials.

“We also have a single emergency contact at Monongahela Power now just for our area. I called so often he knew who was calling without me even having to give him my name,” Hupp said. “This was really the first experience where the whole county was affected. We’ve had high water, or storms or other incidents where just certain areas were affected, this was the whole county,” he said.

Hupp said emergency officials have moved some smaller generators that were scattered out in the county, to the 911 center so they are now centrally located.

“We service and maintain them, county maintenance helps with that, so they are ready to be distributed whenever needed,” he said.

Hupp said the county’s Emergency Operational Plan, which had only been partially updated since 1999, was updated completely and approved by the Wood County Commission in January.

“I think we are more ready, we are definitely more experienced, we have an idea of what could happen. We continue working on readiness. Neighbors took care of their neighbors and the coordination and cooperation between all the emergency responders was great,” Hupp said. “Dealing with downed power lines, accidents, power outages, water issues, emergency calls, there was a large fire at a southside apartment complex. But every situation was handled, everyone was in the same boat and everyone was helping each,” Hupp said.