Wind storm keeps responders busy

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Emergency responders throughout the Heart of Virginia saw an inundation of calls Friday due to damage caused by nor’easter winds.

According to Jackie Gilbert, director of the Farmville Emergency Communications Center, dispatchers at the center answered more than 100 911 calls within a 24-hour period.

“Most of those calls were resulting from the wind event that happened Friday,” Gilbert said.

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She said that’s more than usual, given that a typical day would be between 30-50 calls.

She said there were 42 reports for trees in the roadway, seven electrical wires hanging in the roadway, two brush fires and one structure fire.

“Times like this, when we have major weather events, they really, really go to task and they do a wonderful job,” Gilbert said. “Whether it be staying over from their shift, they’re not going to leave knowing that their other coworkers could be overwhelmed, they wouldn’t do that.”

Downed power lines also left more than 1,000 people throughout the area without power.

According to the Dominion Energy outage map on Friday, at one point 880 customers were without power in Prince Edward County, 766 customers were without power in Buckingham County and 164 customers were without power in Cumberland County.

According to the Southside Electric Cooperative outage map, 1249 customers were without power in Prince Edward County and 178 were without power in Cumberland County.

The National Weather Service warned prior to the storm of strong wind gusts Friday through Saturday morning with winds between 20 to 30 mph and gusts from 50 to 55 mph.

“Strong wind gusts may cause downed tree limbs and small trees. Scattered power outages are possible,” the wind advisory cited.

Farmville Volunteer Fire Department Lieutenant Travis Finch said his department responded to 16 calls in total over the course of 26 hours. He said usually that number hovers around one a day.

“It just really depends on the day,” Finch said.

He said for the Farmville Volunteer Fire Department having that many calls in the course of a day is taxing.

“Once you have a large amount of calls at once, your people get tired quick,” Finch said. “Especially when you have a bunch of trees down, you’re constantly running and having to cut a tree up and you just get tired out so that’s where it’s nice to have a larger group of people that way you can divide the work amongst one another.”

He said the brush fires were due to trees falling onto power lines.

According to Cumberland County Sheriff Darrell Hodges, Cumberland received 35 calls for trees blocking roads and 10 calls for fires caused by downed power lines between Friday and Saturday.

Dillwyn Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jason Wharam said his department received four calls related to wind damage.

Arvonia Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Toney said the department received seven calls Friday. He said a majority of the calls were for downed trees or trees that fell on electrical lines.