Photo courtesy the WVDOH.

WVDOH crews moving quickly to assist in icy conditions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Division of Highways crews are moving quickly to assist their co-workers in the areas of the state hit hardest by the ice storms that have swept across West Virginia in recent days.

“Governor Justice always talks about ‘running to the fire,’” said Jimmy Wriston, Deputy Secretary of Transportation. “Our crews are always ready to jump in to help each other in times like this. They’re the best in the country at incident management; whether its snow and ice, floods, derechos, you name it. We are moving manpower and equipment to the hardest-hit areas, while continuing to maintain a state of preparedness in every county statewide.”

DOH District 1 and District 2 were hit particularly hard by ice storms, which clogged roads, felled trees, and knocked out power all over the region. District 1 includes Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Mason, and Putnam counties. District 2 covers Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo, and Wayne counties.

“If it was just clearing the snow, that’s one thing,” said DOH District 2 Engineer Scott Eplin. “Trees and brush really make things a challenge.”

Gov. Jim Justice declared a State of Emergency in Cabell, Lincoln, Putnam, and Wayne counties today for harsh weather that began last week. The State of Emergency is in effect for 30 days, and allows the Governor to call in special help in the affected counties.

Eplin estimated there were “thousands” of trees down across District 2 alone today.

“Hundreds wouldn’t cover it,” he said.

Downed trees were blocking roads and snarling power lines throughout the district.

Fortunately, DOH crews from all over West Virginia offered to help cleanup efforts in District 1 and District 2. Four tree-cutting crews from Districts 7, 8, and 9 were helping out in District 1, while District 2 was getting seven extra tree-cutting crews from District 4 and District 10.

“Our employees didn’t flinch when asked to assist our neighbors in District 2,” said District 10 Engineer Joe Pack. “They immediately began making plans to be away from their families to provide help, as requested, and also provided constructive comments on necessary equipment and tools to take with them.”

Still, Eplin said, it could take two or three days before things are back to normal in District 2. With AEP estimating more than 100,000 customers without power, DOH is not exempt. Eplin said some District 2 facilities are operating on emergency power.

District 1 Putnam County headquarters was also without power earlier today.

DOH can clear trees from roadways, but cutting trees snarled in power lines requires coordination with the power company.

“You might cut two or three and then one is in the power lines,” Eplin said.

District 1 Engineer Travis Knighton said highway crews must adopt different tactics when fighting snow and ice. The temperatures that cause icing also hamper prevention and treatment.

“It really depends on the temperature of the outside air,” Knighton said.

Drivers should stay off the roads if they don’t have to travel and give themselves extra time if they do. Please give DOH snowplows plenty of room if you encounter them on the highway.

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