WVDOH makes progress removing frozen trees

Jackson Newspapers
Jackson Newspapers

West Virginia Division of Highways crews from all across the state are making progress in reopening hundreds of roads closed because of last week’s ice storms.

A series of winter storms from Feb. 10 through Feb. 15 left ice-coated trees on roadways and power lines all over the Mountain State. The worst of the damage was in Cabell, Jackson, Lincoln, Mason, Putnam, and Wayne counties, where Governor Jim Justice declared a State of Emergency on Feb. 16.

In the six counties within the disaster area, more than 280 roads were left impassable in the aftermath of the ice storms. Many were blocked in dozens of places, with trees both falling across roads and getting tangled in power lines. Both WVDOH District 1 Engineer Travis Knighton and District 2 Manager Scott Eplin said the damage was “as bad or worse than the 2012 Derecho.”

In District 1, Putnam and Mason counties were hit hard by the ice storms, which closed 58 roads in Putnam County and 39 roads in Mason County.

Wayne County remained the hardest-hit county in District 2, where ice storms initially closed 68 roads. Ice storms closed 48 roads in Cabell County and 27 roads in Lincoln County. Another 45 roads were initially closed in Jackson County.

WVDOH tree-cutting crews from District 4, District 7, District 8, District 9, and District 10 mobilized almost immediately to help their neighbors. Under emergency provisions, five contractors were also hired to help clear debris in storm-ravaged Districts 1 and 2.

“People have helped us out, so we should help them back,” District 9 Engineer Steve Cole said.

With help from the extra crews and contractors, WVDOH had 238 of 283 roads reopened by the end of the weekend.

“We’ve probably got 200 people or more in the field,” Eplin said. “The total cleanup effort will take a bit longer.”

In District 2 some local residents have offered coffee to the workers, to thank them for being away from their own families.

“The citizens love to see us coming,” he said.

District 1 Maintenance Engineer Kathy Rushworth said most roads were open Monday in Putnam and Mason counties. Some roads were blocked in the middle but accessible from either end.

“I believe we have all our critical blockages open in our area, at least for emergency access,” she said.

Rushworth said Putnam and Mason county residents have been going for days without electricity, and many crews among those working 12-hour shifts to clean up the storm also have no electricity at home.