PHILLIPI, W.Va. — West Virginia officials said Wednesday that superstorm Sandy had killed five residents, including a legislative candidate, caused several buildings to collapse, knocked out power to thousands and left others stranded by impassible roads.
Those killed include two Barbour County men, including Republican House of Delegates candidate John Rose Sr. Barbour County Emergency Services Director Cindy Hart said each died Tuesday in separate weather-related accidents. A 40-year-old woman died after her car collided with a cement truck Monday in Tucker County. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office was seeking details regarding the other two deaths, spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said.
Officials in Nicholas County said eight structures collapsed under the weight of heavy snow but that no one was injured.
County Emergency Service Director Carla Hennessey said the collapses began Tuesday and involved an apartment complex, a grocery store, two convenience stores, a hardwood plant and three homes. She said the second floor of the apartment complex in Summersville collapsed onto the first and that its 72 residents were taken to shelters or went to be with relatives.
Hennessey said the storm left snow drifts as high as 5 feet in Richwood and 3 feet in Summersville.
"It's been really hard to check on our residents," she said. "Nicholas County is a widespread county. Even our primary roads have been impassible at times. We're just now getting into some secondary routes to check on people."
Meanwhile, power companies began paring the number of customers left without electricity. Service remained out to 224,000 customers on Wednesday, down from 271,000 a day earlier.
At least 36 roads remained closed in West Virginia. In Barbour County, U.S. 119 north from Buckhannon to Philippi was lined with toppled trees and snapped limbs. The limbs that were still attached drooped low over the road with heavy wet snow.
Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins said the situation is more dramatic on back roads, where many people are cut off by downed trees in both directions.
"We have areas in the county where we know people are stranded with trees down on both sides of them," he said. "They can't get out in either direction, and they have no phones, no power, no anything.
"We haven't gotten into those rural areas yet to try to locate anybody who needs help."
Cell phone service in Philippi failed Tuesday night, and land lines are down, so Hawkins is concerned about those who can't communicate.
Most people had ample warning of the storm and time to prepare.
"People did go out and stock up on groceries. They stocked up on fuel. So I think they will be pretty well prepared," Hawkins said. "But you have elderly people who are on oxygen and medications, and they have limited supplies. So that's a concern."
Details of the deaths were slow to trickle in, partially because of the communication issues.
George Rose told The Associated Press his 60-year-old father was checking fences on his 100-acre property near Philippi around 2 p.m. Tuesday when a falling tree limb struck him.