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Windstorm causes widespread damage; large power outage

Powerful wind took weak trees everywhere but few had more impact than the old tree that snapped a power pole in Saluda on Friday afternoon. Route 33 Business was blocked about one-quarter mile from Hardee’s and traffic was detoured several hours. Power was off for about 48 hours. Above, Dominion Energy crews stage with four trucks to tackle the big reconnect. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

“A hurricane without the rains” is how Dominion Energy described the lengthy windstorm that hammered eastern Virginia on Friday, March 2, and lasted into the next day. 

About 690,000 customers lost electric power during the fifth most damaging storm in Dominion Energy’s history, said Daisy Pridgen, Dominion Energy spokesperson.

While the winds were not as intense as a hurricane, sustained north and west winds of 30-plus miles per hour, with higher gusts, lasted more than 24 hours.

The long-duration windstorm ranks in the top five storms in Dominion Energy’s history, said Pridgen. “This storm was particularly damaging as it lasted so long,” said Pridgen. “Our system experienced significant winds for more than 24 hours including gusts of over 70 miles per hour. It ranks as one of the top five most damaging storms in the number of Dominion Energy customers impacted. It is topped only by hurricanes Floyd, Isabel and Irene, and the Super Derecho of 2012.”

Northern Virginia and the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck area took the brunt of the impact with widespread significant tree, utility pole and electric line damage, said Pridgen. “In some instances, crews had to stop work to take shelter until the wind gusts subsided,” she said. About 80% of Dominion Energy customers had power restored by 5 p.m. Saturday, leaving 145,000 customers without power.

A workforce of more than 3,900 Dominion Energy personnel worked as quickly as they could in conditions that were still somewhat hazardous due to breezy conditions, said Pridgen. The storm knocked out power to 565 critical facilities, such as fire and police stations and hospitals. By Saturday evening, crews had restored all but 58 of these facilities.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newsstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 03.07.2018

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