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This week is far from normal for thousands in West Virginia with widespread power outages and downed trees clogging roads, but one thing will continue on normally. The Independence Day celebration in Charleston is on this evening, with a free West Virginia Symphony Orchestra concert and fireworks.
Appalachian Power company has revised its estimate, and now says power may not be back on to all of it's customers until Sunday night. The previous estimate for Kanawha County was Friday. There are still 64,000 people in the dark in Kanwaha County, down from the peak of about 79,000. Across the state, the number of people without power had been reduced to 406,000 as of Monday evening. Lincoln County may have power restored by tonight, but Putnam county is among those that may have to wait until Friday night. Logan should have power by Saturday night, and Kanawha county by Sunday night.
Many West Virginia teachers and administrators are in Washington DC to be part of this year's 150th Annual National Education Association Representative Assembly. That brings ten thousand educators to one spot to talk about everything from budgets to bullying. The conference also deals with finding ways to transform lower performing schools. As the states share ideas, West Virginia is not alone with its issues, and may fare better than other states in some cases. The event runs through Thursday.
Jack Jordan had been with the Nitro police department for more than thirty years and served as chief for twelve, but learned Monday he was being terminated as Chief. Mayor Dave Casebolt took office July 1, and fired Chief Jordan the following day. The mayor has appointed Captain Brian Oxley as acting chief and is expected to interview candidates and make a decision about Jordan's permanent successor by the end of July.
Power is being slowly restored around the state and necessities are slowly coming back too. Distributors of ice and dairy and meat products are working to get those products out quickly to the stores and gas stations that do have power. The top priority has been to bring more fuel to an area stretching from Ohio to Washington DC to keep the all-important generators running. Hospitals and nursing homes are the first priority, and fuel trucks are also being diverted to highways to make sure drivers don't run out of gas. Contingency plans are in place, and now it seems to be a matter of patience, waiting on the power to return.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has asked non-essential state employees to not report to work today. The governor says a great deal of progress has been made so far with the cleanup, but with the power outages still a problem and emergency vehilces needing the roads, the governor wants most people to stay home. Only travel if you absolutely have to. Only essential state employees like those who provide services "relating to the health, safety and welfare of citizens" are required to report to work Monday, in addition to those who are designated by their directors, according to a news release.
State employees who are unsure if they should report to work can call 304-558-9117 or 888-558-9117.
Rite Aid stores are becoming "Wellness Stores." The line of health and wellness products has expanded, and now includes GNC products which the stores didn't carry before and more organic and gluten-free products. Two stores have already seen the overhaul - the Kanawha City store on MacCorkle Avenue SE, and the South Charleston Store on MacCorckle Avenue SW. Rite Aid has set a goal of having eighty percent of its stores either new or remodeled over the next five years.
West Virginia's distracted driving law has gone into effect. That means drivers who text could get ticketed. West Virgnia State Police and local agencies have begun the enforcements as of July 1, and drivers can be cited for hands-on cell phone use. It's a secondary offense, so that alone cannot trigger a traffic stop. It becomes a primary offense in mid-2013. You may see signs along highways about the distracted driving law.
53 of West Virginia's 55 counties were affected the weekend storms with power outages and in some cases it will take several days to restore it. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin placed the state under a State of Emergency, and FEMA will send generators and water. Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper says 75% of Kanawha County residents are without power. Hospitals and nursing homes are the first priorities for generators.
Several shelters and cooling stations have been set up this week in the Kanawha Valley as the area waits for the power to come back on. Between 9am and 5pm this week the Kanawha City Recreation Center on Venable Avenue in Charleston is open from 9am to 5pm. Other shelters spots include the Martin Luther King Center on Donnally Street, the North Charleston Recreation Center on Seventh Avenue, the Kanawha County Public Library, and Riverside High School. In Putnam County, the YMCA in Scott Depot is a shelter from 8am to 8pm. There's a 24-hour shelter in Scott Depot at Calvary Baptist Church.