(07/12/2012)
By Edwin L. "Bo" Wriston, Director
Wirt County Office of Emergency Services

Elizabeth, W.Va. - The following information is made available to the public in regards to current Response Efforts in Wirt County to recover from the storm system that impacted West Virginia on Friday, June 29, 2012. (This will be the final report for this event.)

Power:

As of 1300 this afternoon, the 1st Energy/Mon Power website showed only 131 Wirt County residents without power, down from as high as 792 that were still without yesterday. Small pockets of Creston, Munday, Brohard, and Pee Wee are still without power, but 13 days into this event, things may finally get back to somewhat "normal". If anyone still does not have power, please continue to contact 1st Energy/Mon Power directly at 1 (888) 851-0175.

Supplies Distribution:

Supplies distribution including water/ice/food around the county will be wrapping up today. Meals will be delivered to Pisgah Church near Pee Wee, the Creston Community Center and the Brohard Community Center. Red Cross will not be providing meals after today, so no further distribution will occur. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Red Cross for the meals they have brought to our citizens, to the Hope Mission for their efforts to help distribute, and special thanks to the staff at the Wirt County Senior Citizens Center who have done a TREMENDOUS job of providing hot meal and water/ice delivery to every corner of the county. Today will also be the final day for the West Virginia National Guard to canvass areas of Wirt County and deliver supplies. A special thanks goes to them as below…

West Virginia National Guard and Air National Guard:

Our West Virginia National Guard teams who have been canvassing the entire county making home deliveries will be demobilized today back to their home units. They will leave accompanied by a tremendous respect and admiration from the citizens of Wirt County for the sacrifices they have made to support us! Our West Virginia Air National Guard team will be with us through Sunday. If you get the chance, stop by the Wirt County Courthouse today, tomorrow or Saturday, and personally thank these men for all they have done on our behalf. They have busted their hind-ends to assist us, and are well deserving of our thanks and praise!

Local Volunteers:

We have had a wonderful outpouring of volunteerism during this event from folks working hours upon hours dedicating their personal time, money, and passion to assist those in need. From helping distribute water and ice at the Wirt County Courthouse, to helping answer the Sheriff's hotline after normal business hours, to folks who loaded up their personal vehicles and took deliveries of supplies to their neighbors and neighborhoods, these efforts have been a TREMENDOUS help in getting supplies to people in need, and has been a wonderful display of kindness, generosity, and family! While there has been so many, special thanks goes out to Ken Pettry, Roger & Tara Sheppard, Joe March & the Hope Mission, DJ Thorn, Walker Siers, Jerry Hopkins, Reggie Grimett, Gail Siers, Darlene Klabunde, Kelly Moore & the entire Senior Citizens Center staff, Debbie Hennen & the entire staff of the Coplin Clinic, Debbie Hennen (Assessor), Ashley Coplin Hall, Lew Peck, Wirt County CERT members Katrina & Shelby Valentine, Anessa Dille, Angie McCue, Ruth Wriston & Ethan Wriston, Mid-Ohio Valley Regional CERT, Yvette Brick, Andy & Jodi Cheuvront, Misty Young, Stephen Settle, Doug Hill, Aaron Marks, Doug Haney, Jeff Jeffers, Ron Merrill, Rory Marant, Charles Siers and other members of the Elizabeth/Wirt Volunteer Fire Department!

In Wirt County we pride ourselves on being family and thy brother's keeper, and through this entire event, those listed above and many, many others, made us once again proud to call ourselves Wirt Countians!

Burn Restrictions:

While some residents might wish to burn debris from fallen trees, etc., the Governor has issued a "No Burn" ban for all of West Virginia till the State of Emergency is lifted. That means all outdoor burning is illegal, and should be avoided at all costs.

Public information:

In addition to calling the Sheriff's Office at (304) 275-4222 for general information or to report issues/needs, citizens can sign up for free information and warning alerts from the Wirt County Office of Emergency Services and Wirt County Sheriff's Office to their cell phone and or computers via text and/or email at www.nixle.com. Citizens may also follow the Wirt County Office of Emergency Services on Facebook and Twitter. Wirt County OES will continue to post press releases to local media including TV, radio, newspapers and on-line newspapers, as well as monitor and post to social media sites for accurate up to date information. Paper copies of this release will also be distributed along with water and ice to insure the widest possible dissemination of information.

FEMA Claims process for damages and/or losses incurred: There has been a ton of confusion on FEMA and what they can and cannot do. FEMA claims teams will be "in our area" starting Monday, July 9, 2012 doing damage assessments and documentation, but we do not know when they will actually be in Wirt County. As to what they can do to assist homeowners…

There are two primary types of Assistance FEMA offers; Public & Private. Public Assistance deals with public utilities, courthouses, schools, etc. allowing them to recoup up to 75% the cost of damages and expenses incurred. Private Assistance deals with homeowners and private property claims, etc.

The Governor has asked for and received a declaration for Public Assistance. However, the total dollar threshold for homeowner structural damages has not yet met a level allowing the Governor to ask for a Private Assistance declaration. Until such time that total $$ amounts reach that threshold for STRUCTURAL DAMAGE, there will be no assistance from FEMA. Individual homeowner losses become a homeowner insurance issue only. Regardless, we are being told that FEMA will NOT cover the costs associated with lost food stocks and/or generator fuel used during the outages. All they will do is help pay… via a LOAN program… for structural damages to a homeowner's property. Not the news any of us wants to hear…

The County Commission, OES and Sheriff will be working with the Governor's Office to see if a special fund for this event can be set up at the State level to help folks who have spent/lost hundreds if not thousands of dollars in fuel and food stock. In order to do this, we still need folks to report damages and losses to us so we can have as much data as possible to feed to the State and try to get money back for our residents.

FEMA information may be found online to www.disasterassistance.gov, or by calling 1(800) 621-3362.

Scams & Thefts:

Residents around WV have reported folks coming by from the "PSD" or "FEMA" or other organizations, asking if they have generators, etc., then waking up the next morning and their generator is stolen. Also, power crews have reported lines being stolen RIGHT AFTER THEY ARE INSTALLED or even off their trucks, as apparently folks want to get the copper from them to sell. If anyone tries to "sell" you water/food/ice in Wirt County, please report them to the Sheriff! If you witness anyone stealing from power company vehicles, etc., please report it! Sad, but true…

Future Events:

Since taking over the position of Office of Emergency Services Director in June of last year, while trying to build assets and capabilities and planning for the county, I have consistently heard the statement that, "oh that will never happen here!" Luckily, Wirt County does NOT have to deal with major events like massive floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc., and the last "big" event most folks remember was the Ice Storms of 1994. As such, emergency planning has taken a very low priority for residents.

It is my sincere hope that, "oh that will never happen here!" is never uttered again in Wirt County!

This event has proven that yes, it CAN indeed happen here, and that we need to prepare BEFORE an event in order to minimize the harmful impact it might have when it actually occurs. This storm system caught not only us, but the entire State of West Virginia unprepared. We can do better…

As a county, we now have an opportunity to use this event to better plan and prepare for the future. In order to do so, we need to honestly assess what went wrong, what went right in this event, and begin to build assets and infrastructure. This will take input from everyone in the county, and we will be reaching out in various ways to ask for input and lessons learned. YOUR VOICE IS IMPORTANT! No one person, organization, or group has all the answers… every voice is important!

There will be a public meeting Monday evening, July 23, 2012 at the Wirt County Courthouse from 6:30PM till approximately 9:30PM to go over the Storm Response and to begin to plan our way forward from here. We will be discussing using community centers/buildings as coordination and supply distribution points, emergency communications, public information, etc., and would like to have representatives from every community in the county to attend and provide inputs. From the good, the bad, and the ugly, we need to have a full picture and understanding of the past two weeks to be better prepared in the future. Ideas are welcome! And we will have a few to share with everyone as well. We are all in this together!

CERT:

As a last note, I would like to pass along an invite for everyone to attend the upcoming Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. CERT teaches members about disaster preparedness, crisis response, fire safety, basic Search & Rescue skills, etc. Our Wirt County CERT is a part of the larger Mid-Ohio Valley Regional CERT program, and we had our CERT team and members of Wood County & Ritchie County CERT teams volunteer here in Wirt County during this event. In order for Wirt County CERT to flourish and become a true asset to the community, we need new members. The long-term goal for CERT, is to have the large Wirt County team, and then smaller "units" within EACH community ready to help their neighbors when something of this level happens again. If you would like to receive the FREE training, and become a member of Wirt County CERT, please call Office of Emergency Services Director Bo Wriston @ (304) 629-3735, or contact via email at wirtcooes@gmail.com. Our next class starts July 19, 2012.


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