By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BRUSHFORK, W.Va. — Severe thunderstorms cutting Wednesday across southern West Virginia severed power to thousands of customers, knocked trees into roadways and in one instance endangered two men when high winds tore the roof off their business.
Tim Farley, director of the Mercer County Office of Emergency Services, the high winds broke trees and downed power lines throughout the county. He did not know of any injuries relating to the fallen trees.
Farley also said a tree hit a car in Brushfork, but no injuries were reported.
The Mercer County Airport’s weather station recorded a 60 mph wind gust at 11:09 a.m., according to meteorologist Jim Hudgins with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg,Va. Approximately .77 inches of rain was recorded as well.
One of the day’s biggest examples of the wind’s power occurred at approximately 12:15 p.m. at D’s&P’s, a business along Route 52 in Bluewell near the intersection with Route 123. Two men getting their store ready for the day missed death by mere feet when high winds ripped away their building’s metal roof and bent it back.
Heavy rain was falling when Pat Blankenship of Pocahontas, Va. arrived at her business. Firefighters with the Bluefield Fire Department and the Bluewell Volunteer Fire Department along with members of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department were watching over the scene until workers with Appalachian Power could arrive and cut off electricity to a line.
“Boy, it’s a mess,” Blankenship said as she looked at the damage. “There were two men walking into the building. This is our business. They walked in the door and it came right down. God had to be with them.”
Casey Hubbard of Pocahontas, Va. stood in the rain and recalled the moment he stepped into the 50 foot and 20 foot building. A thunderstorm was approaching at that moment, but it was stronger than usual.
“It sounded like a tornado coming,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard’s father-in-law, Douglas Blankenship of Pocahontas, Va. was sitting in a nearby pickup truck and looking at his destroyed business. His family rented the building.
“We saw the storm coming,” he said. “We got inside the store and it (roof) fell right in. Anyway, I looked around and the roof was coming down right in beside the door.”
Pat Blankenship said their business had no insurance. She looked at the wreckage and remarked how everything inside the store, which sold used furniture, appliances and other items, was being ruined by the rain. She pointed out a couch that had been sold; the roof had cut it in half.
“Ten years is tied up in this building and we don’t know what to do,” she said. “It’s devastating for us.”
In Athens, a tree tangled in power lines fell on a car. The occupants were inside and afraid to come out due to the lines, but no injuries were reported, according to Mercer County Sheriff Tommy Bailey and Detective W.E. Rose, who were at the Brushfork store. In another incident, one man cut his leg with a chainsaw while he was clearing a tree off Mill Dam Road near Spanishburg, Bailey said. Bailey did not know the extent of the injuries.
While firefighters were working in Brushfork, members of other fire departments were busy clearing downed trees from roadways across the county while power line crews worked to restore electric service.
Power outages were reported across the region. In West Virginia as of 5:50 p.m., 3,488 customers were without power in Mercer County, and another 6,709 had no electricity in neighboring McDowell County, according to Appalachian Power. Monroe County had 17 customers without power. In Virginia, 441 customers were impacted in Tazewell County with another 289 in Buchanan County, 28 in Bland County and 355 in Giles County.
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