Emergency shelter active after storm

PARKERSBURG – A South Parkersburg Baptist Church Red Cross emergency storm shelter provided a safe refuge overnight Tuesday to residents put out of their homes.

Lloyd Hamblin, executive pastor at the church, said five individuals sought shelter there Tuesday afternoon. It remained open Wednesday.

“We entered into an agreement with the Red Cross back around the time we had the derecho that if they needed to use our church building as a shelter in the future, when needed, we would do that,” Hamblin said.

A severe thunderstorm downed trees and power lines in Wood County where more than 15,000 people were without electricity immediately after the storm struck.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the Red Cross provided cots and supplies for the emergency shelter.

“The Red Cross actually managed the shelter; they bring in the manpower and materials; some of our volunteer staff at the church came in to help out as well. We had five stay overnight and there was some more folks checking in this morning. We also have kitchen facilities here,” Hamblin said Wednesday.

“We try to serve the community anyway we can; part of our mission is to be good neighbors and anytime we have an opportunity to reach out in the community, we try to do that,” Hamblin said.

Susan Hughes, a Red Cross volunteer, was helping at the church on Wednesday.

“We had two families in here last night (Tuesday). They had trees fall into their homes, one was from the Washington area, one was from the Parkersburg area,” she said. “We have two more coming in Wednesday night; they are staying overnight; we have meals and snacks here,” she said.

Hughes said the workers try to be supportive and help the shelter residents as they attempt to find housing.

Those in need can come by the shelter, call the non-emergency number at the 911 center, or call their local fire department for shelter information, Hughes said.

Hughes said the church shelter would remain open as long as there is a need.

She said if residents leave their homes to go to a shelter they should make sure they have their prescription medication, clothes and personal items.

“We do have some personal items and clothing available if they are not able to bring it,” she said.

Said Loutfi, a disaster volunteer from the Red Cross in Wheeling, aided at the shelter. He said he was eager to help the Red Cross.

“This is the first time,” he said.

In the meantime, emergency officials Wednesday continued to caution residents about downed lines and trees after the severe storm ripped through Wood County Tuesday.

“Residents are urged to stay away from downed power lines and trees,” Wood County Emergency Management Director Ed Hupp said.

Hupp cautioned drivers to be careful at intersections where traffic lights remained off. Traffic at intersections mainly in downtown Parkersburg was being directed by police officers.

“If you come up to a traffic light that is out, treat it as if it were a four-way stop sign,” Hupp said.

Hupp said although the area was under a severe thunderstorm alert Tuesday afternoon, the severity of the storm was not expected.

“We were tracking it; it seems like it came through the Washington Bottom area up through Parkersburg and out Route 47. We did some assessments; it looked like a lot of straight line winds and damage,” Hupp said.

The National Weather Service was kept updated of the storm in the county, he said.

“While they predicted storms, and we had some warnings, it seemed like it was just minutes before it hit,” Hupp said.

Weather service meteorologist Jeff Hovis said the storm was probably an example of a downburst, when wind from higher in the atmosphere drives toward the ground and spreads out. It came from a system that had been moving in a northeast direction.

“All of a sudden, the whole northern portion of the line started racing to the east,” Hovis said.

Winds were probably in excess of 50 mph, he said.

The county’s emergency operations center was activated during the storm.

Emergency officials reported a tree fell into a Lubeck residence and a trampoline became airborne and was entangled in overhead lines.

“There are no street closures (in rural areas) as far as I know, but the power lines remain a big problem,” Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard said. “On Tuesday night some of the firefighters found people grabbing power lines that were down and trying to cut the lines away from trees, that is very dangerous,” Woodyard.

More than 200 calls for assistance were made at the height of the storm Tuesday afternoon, he said. Woodyard praised the 911 dispatchers for their work throughout the storm.

“I’ll wait for a while to get feedback, but our staff performed exceptionally well under the weight of stress in there. Two of the dispatchers on duty had been on duty during the derecho and said Tuesday was worse for them,” he said. “We received a lot of positive feedback from first responders about how the dispatchers managed their tasks.”

Woodyard said emergency situations always provide learning experiences.

“During the derecho Chief (Ed) Hupp worked with the area nursing homes to make sure they got generators. We checked on the senior homes and other than one that a generator failed through no fault of their own, they all had their generators operating, and they immediately got a replacement for the one that failed, so that was a good lesson learned from that storm and I’m sure there will be others from this one,” he said.

(Staff writer Evan Bevins contributed to this story.)