CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Counties hit hard by the effects of superstorm Sandy are beginning to pick up the pieces, but the road to recovery is daunting as each faces its own set of problems.
It has become a team effort in five counties hit hard by the storm.
A common scene is chain saw crews from the state Division of Forestry working with members of the National Guard to clear trees from the roads so Division of Highways workers can remove snow.
More than 168,000 customers of the two major state power companies remained without power Thursday, and in some counties more than 80 percent of residents were affected.
As day five begins, some worry that supplies may run out before power returns.
In West Virginia's northeast corner, Preston County sits covered by a blanket of 3 feet of heavy, wet, packed snow. That's not unusual for the wintry months in high-altitude towns like Terra Alta, but it is in October.
About 82 percent of Preston County residents were without power Thursday, and a number of roads, especially secondary roads, were impassable, said Clark Nicklow, a spokesman for Preston's Office of Emergency Management.
First Energy subsidiary Mon Power's website said 13,744 customers lacked service.
Division of Highways workers couldn't plow the snow because of fallen trees, Nicklow said.
Crews from the Division of Forestry and FEMA armed with chain saws were working hand in hand with the National Guard to remove trees.
The snow is beginning to pack down and melt, and the trees seemed to have stopped falling, Nicklow said.
"Right now, we're worried about the 3 feet of heavy, wet, packed snow on buildings," he said.
The canopy covering the Mountaineer Mart, Terra Alta's only gas station, collapsed Wednesday over the gas pumps.
The National Guard brought in an 8,000-gallon tanker of fuel and another smaller distribution truck to keep all of the vehicles moving.
"They will make a lot of headway," Nicklow said of the teams. "It's not like they can cut a tree and plow a mile of road. They cut a tree and move to cut another tree and maybe move 10 feet and cut more trees.
"Trees are the biggest problem, hindering roads getting plowed and power being restored."
The Preston County Commission took the extraordinary step of raiding its own budget to put private contractors on the roads to help clear debris.
"We've never done that before," said Commission President Craig Jennings. "We set aside $100,000, and we're hoping to get a half dozen crews out here for a week or so."
He did not know when the roads would be open and had heard it would be seven to 10 days before power was restored.
"If someone would give you an estimate on how long it would take to get all the roads opened, I'd say they didn't know what they were talking about," Jennings said.
"There are some areas we can't even get in to survey. Many roads are still one lane where local citizens have cut their way through.
"I figure there is at least a week to get into every one of these places."
And more snow was in the forecast, he said.
It was raining and misty in Kingwood Thursday and had been snowing in Terra Alta. The National Weather Service was calling for snow today in Preston County.
"We could do without any more snow," Nicklow said.
Shelters were open at the Bruceton Mills Volunteer Fire Department, Terra Alta Ambulance Squad and the Kingwood Civic Center.
In Webster County, spirits were high until Thursday, when fears began to mount about gas and food supplies.
Richard Rose Jr., county emergency manager, said Thursday he expected the gasoline to run out sooner rather than later.
"Due to the road conditions and the power being out, we've only got two gas stations in the whole county that have gas, and they should be about ready to run out any time now," Rose said. "We're hoping to get some shipments in to those folks, but who knows when that will come?"
More than 80 percent of Webster County's residents were without power, including those working at the Emergency Operations Center in Webster Springs.
The operations center was running on generator power Thursday and had been since the power went out Monday, he said. Webster County Memorial Hospital also was running on generator power.
Mon Power's website showed 4,591 customers in the county without service.
Rose, who doesn't have power at his home near Cowen, said county officials were hearing from Mon Power that restoration could come as late as next Friday.
How they were going to open polling places for Election Day on Tuesday still was up in the air, he said.
Many roads still were closed as crews worked to clear debris and snow. Rose said crews were clearing primary arteries and few secondary routes were open. Work started Thursday morning on W.Va. 15, a main artery through the county.
Webster County was hit hard by snow, with the lower elevations receiving 18 inches and the higher elevations receiving more than 6 feet.
"We're getting more resources now," Rose said. "The National Guard is in here with a couple of graders, and Forestry provided chain saw teams to clear the trees and branches out.
"The National Guard and the volunteer fire departments are really keeping us going. I don't know where we'd be without them."
He said guardsmen and firefighters have been taking food and supplies to residents and portable oxygen tanks to those who need them.