PARKERSBURG - Power is slowly being restored to homes throughout Wood and surrounding counties, but thousands of people may remain without electricity through the weekend, when humidity and high temperatures will combine to create heat indexes in the triple digits.
Significant progress was made in Wood County this week. Around 10,000 customers remained without power Thursday, down from 12,000 on Wednesday.
"We are making progress, but some of those areas have significant damage to power lines," said Todd Meyers, spokesman for Mon Power. "Linemen are out and working hard."
About 23 percent of Monongahela Power customers in Parkersburg were still affected by outages on Thursday. In Williamstown and Boaz, 41 percent remained without electricity, but only 10 percent were without power in Vienna.
"The numbers are going down, but it's important to know that there is the potential for some severe storms later this weekend, which may undo some of the repairs," said Meyers.
In Washington County, about 4,500 were still without electricity, down from 7,300 on Wednesday, according to an AEP Ohio spokesman. Estimated restoration time for 90 percent of AEP customers in Washington County is midnight tonight.
Ed Hupp, Wood County Emergency Management director, said outlying areas or areas with significant damage to power lines may see restoration at a slower pace.
"People are being patient," said Hupp. "We are getting water from the National Guard and delivering it to all the fire departments in Wood County."
The following outages were reported by Mon Power Thursday: 1,835 (39 percent) in Wirt County; 2,760 (43 percent) in Ritchie County; 2,530 (73 percent) in Pleasants County; 1,932 (97 percent) in Jackson County and 1,443 (37 percent) in Doddridge County.
Bo Wriston, director of the Wirt County Office of Emergency Services, said Elizabeth residents are still under a boil advisory, but there is plenty of water. A patch of storms Thursday morning undid some of the progress made by utility workers.
"Some people who had power lost it again this morning because of some storms that hit us," said Wriston.
While water supplies were adequate, ice was still in demand.
"Ice is a big issue for us. Statewide, there is a major crunch for ice," he said. "We've put in an order for 88 pallets, with 22 pallets to be delivered every day for the next four days, but I don't know if that will happen."
The county was down to one pallet of ice Thursday, which was being salvaged for medical emergencies.
"We have the National Guard out delivering water and information packets about what is going on in the area. People really need to get as much information as possible, and we are trying to give it to them," said Wriston. "We've been getting information out in every way we can think of Twitter, Facebook, radio, TV, newspapers, emails, even text messages."
Walter Smittle, Jackson County Emergency Services director, said the city received a large mobile generator from FEMA, which has been powering the water tanks.
"The public service districts have done a marvelous job in keeping the water supply going," said Smittle. "We've got cooling stations in Ravenswood, Ripley, Kenna and Evans, and we finally have a shelter set up by American Red Cross in the cafeteria of Ripley High School."
Smittle said most Jackson County grocery stores were open.
"The perseverance of this community is amazing. It's all about neighbors helping neighbors," he said.
Temperatures are expected to soar into the triple digits today and Saturday. Fire officials urge residents, especially those without power, to be aware of the signs of heat illnesses, such as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the most serious type of heat injury, said Capt. Tim Flinn, chief fire inspector with the Parkersburg Police Department.
Certain people are at a higher risk for these illnesses. Babies and children under 4 years old, the elderly, the overweight, and people who are ill or taking medications should be extra cautious, said Flinn.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, dizziness, headache, fainting, muscle cramps and fast or shallow breathing. Those with heat stroke will have a body temperature above 103 degrees and may not sweat. They may have hot, dry skin, confusion, nausea, vomiting, or may lose consciousness.
Flinn said people should drink at least a quart of fluid for each hour spent doing physical activity. Those who are victims of a heat exhaustion should seek a cool environment immediately, elevate their feet while lying on a flat surface and sip non-carbonated sports drinks or lightly salted water until medical attention arrives.