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Kanawha County shelters to remain open through weekend

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Kanawha County officials are preparing to operate emergency shelters through Sunday for those without power.

As of Wednesday afternoon, about 28,000 Kanawha County customers still were without power.

Most were in St. Albans and the surrounding unincorporated areas, as well as South Hills and Kanawha City in Charleston, County Manager Jennifer Sayre said.

Many people living in and around Sissonville and Marmet also lacked service as of Wednesday afternoon.

Some areas may not have power restored until Sunday, Sayre said.

Remaining open are the shelters at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Sissonville, the West Side Salvation Army at the corner of Tennessee Avenue and Roane Street and the Hansford Senior Center in St. Albans.

Officials opted to close the shelters at Cabin Creek and Pratt because no one stayed at the facilities Tuesday night, Sayre said.

The shelter at Riverside High School in the eastern end of the county closed once power was restored to that area, she said.

The shelter at the Kanawha City Community Center will be consolidated with the Salvation Army facility.

"The Salvation Army has a larger facility," she said.

About 35 to 40 people stayed at shelters Tuesday night, Sayre said. The number could climb as residents continue to go without electricity.

"People may not come into a shelter if they're without power for only one day," she said. "But the chances of them coming into a shelter increase the more days they go without power."

The shelters will remain open during the day as warming stations, Sayre said.  

All three shelters are well supplied and can handle increased numbers of people throughout the rest of the week. Anyone wanting to donate cash to the Red Cross for supplies can do so by calling 304-340-3650, Sayre said.   

The major problem in Kanawha County is downed power lines, said Jeri Matheney, a spokeswoman for American Electric Power. This can be frustrating for residents because the problems may not be visible as a broken pole or blown transformer, she said.

Three substations provide power to South Hills. All three shut down during Tuesday's storm after wet, heavy snow pulled transmission lines to the ground, Matheney said.

She was optimistic about getting power restored to the neighborhood.

"We made lots of progress with the station problems yesterday (Tuesday)," she said. "We're in good shape there. We're pretty much ready to be back in service."

Meanwhile Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was in contact with Charleston Mayor Danny Jones to see how those in and around Charleston were holding up after the remnants of Hurricane Sandy dumped snow and rain onto the area.

Napolitano contacted Jones at about 2:30 p.m. to see how residents were doing. The two talked for five to 10 minutes, during which Jones gave Napolitano a report on the power outages.

He also passed along information from Matheney about how Appalachian Power employees and contractors had to use all-terrain vehicles to access more remote areas in Kanawha County, some even walking into areas to find where lines might be down.

"She's really concerned about what's going on here," he said.

Jones believes Napolitano is very in tune with how disasters are handled because of her experience as a Democratic governor of Arizona.

"Whatever your politics are, you have to say she understands issues like what we're dealing with," Jones, a Republican, said. "When it's a domestic situation like this, she's a good one to have on the job."  

Jones said he was not surprised by a phone call from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. However, he was shocked that Napolitano called him herself.

The mayor had to teach Napolitano how to pronounce Kanawha, he said with a laugh.    

Power had been restored to thousands of people in Putnam County by Wednesday afternoon, said Frank Chapman, director of Emergency Services.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 4,892 were without power in Putnam, he said.

Most were located in rural areas in the southern portion of the county around U.S. 60, around Scott Depot and in the northern sections around Red House, Chapman said.

Putnam officials don't plan to open any shelters, he said. A shelter was opened at the Calvary Baptist Church in Scott Depot, but "no one stayed there," Chapman said.

Chapman believes service could be restored to the entire county by midday on Friday.   

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.


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