By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Mar. 4, 2018 | 4:30 p.m.
VIRGINIA – For much of Virginia and points north along the East Coast, it wasn’t a quiet weekend as a potent storm system brought heavy rain, snow, and tropical storm-force wind gusts to the area, leaving downed trees and power lines in its wake.
The storm system moved out of the nation’s midsection through the middle parts of last week before strengthening as it approached the Atlantic Ocean, allowing the nor’easter to generate winds gusts upwards of 80 miles per hour in some parts of Virginia and the Northeast.
While Virginia missed most of the precipitation from the storm system, the state, Southside Virginia included, were not spared from the whipping winds of the nor’easter as it tracked away from the Commonwealth as a vast majority of the state was under some form of wind advisory due to the sustained winds and stronger gusts recorded as the storm approached and moved out of the area, resulting in some school divisions in Virginia’s western and northernmost counties to close due to the risk of power outages and trees limbs falling as school buses drove along roads and students waited at bus stops.
As Friday went on, power outages became a recurring theme of the onslaught of winds that lashed the area, putting area power crews into action for much of the day and into the weekend. According to Dominion Energy, at the height of their outages, over 690,000 customers were without service, resulting in additional crews and resources being dispatched across the state.
“This storm was particularly damaging as it lasted so long – with our system experiencing significant winds more than 24 hours including gusts of over 70 mph,” officials said during restoration efforts. “It ranks as one of the top five most damaging storms in the number of Dominion Energy customers impacted, topped only by hurricanes Floyd, Isabel and Irene, and the Super Derecho of 2012.”
According to Dominion Energy representatives, Northern Virginia and the Gloucester/Northern Neck regions took the biggest hit from the early weekend storm as crews not only had to tackle downed lines but also significant pole and wire damage. Central Virginia and the Tidewater areas also had smaller pockets of significant damage.
Even as crews worked to get the lights back on to hundreds of thousands of people across the Commonwealth, there were times where crews had to stop repairs and seek shelter themselves as wind gusts continued to whip around their vehicles, which include cherry picker units.
Among those customer outages, Dominion Energy reported that the weekend storm “knocked out power to 565 critical facilities, such as fire and police stations and hospitals” but, as of Sunday, their crews had restored power to all by 58 of those locations thanks to a workforce of nearly 4,0000 restoration personnel who have been working since Friday to get things back online despite the persistent breeziness that remained after the storm left the Virginia area.
According to the National Weather Service Office in Wakefield, the highest wind gusts recorded around Southside Virginia stayed in the 45 mile-per-hour range during the height of the wind event Friday. Data from the Dinwiddie Airport showed a peak wind gust of 43 miles per hour while a 46 mile-per-hour gust was recorded at the Wakefield NWS office.
Those gusts also created problems for Prince George Electric Cooperative’s infrastructure as they reported transmission issues into their Beachland substation, affecting areas around Runnymead, Hollybush, White Marsh, and Beachland roads Friday morning. According to their Facebook page, PGEC was able to restore service by noon that same day.
It was a similar story for Southside Electric Cooperative as their crews worked through the weekend, including overnight to restore power to their members. According to their data, at the height of the wind event, nearly 20,000 members of its over 55,000 members were without power. By Saturday, they were able to get that number down to just under 3,900.
In a statement, SEC explained, “To assist with restoration efforts following the widespread outages, SEC has brought in mutual aid crews from neighboring states as well as additional contract line crews and tree trimming crews.”
Similar to Dominion Energy, SEC said they saw significant damage to their infrastructure, including a large number of broken poles, which resulted in power restoration efforts lasting through the weekend.
As cleanup from the storm continues, local power companies remind customers and members to never go near downed power lines and to assume any downed lines are still live and pose a serious risk to your life if approached or touched. When an outage does occur, Dominion Energy customers can call 1-866-DOM-HELP or visit DominionEnergy.com on their phone or mobile device.
Prince George Electric Cooperative members can report an outage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 804-834-2424.
Southside Electric Cooperative members can call in their outage reports by dialing 1-866-878-5514.
According to published reports, from Virginia to Maine at the height of power outages during the nor’easter, over 2 million homes and businesses were in the dark across 17 states, but that number continues to slowly decrease. The New York Times reports at least eight people have died as a result of the storm, including a child in Chesterfield County who perished when a tree limb crashed into his home as he laid in bed.