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Power restoration efforts slow going as crews find ‘extensive and devastating' damage

Nearly one-third of people in Central Virginia remained without power for a third day after Monday’s winter storm caused extensive damage to power grids.

Utility crews with Dominion Energy, Appalachian Power, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and Central Virginia Electrical Cooperative continued to survey the damage to power lines, poles and transformers, make fixes and reenergize lines. Hundreds of workers from out-of-state are assisting with the repair effort.

Dominion officials said during a press conference in eastern Albemarle County that the grid sustained extensive damage, which was complicating the process of turning the power back on. In one area near Buck Island Road, poles, wires and transformers were on the ground.

Kevin Curtis, the vice president of electrical transmission and power delivery for Dominion Energy, said crews had to rebuild portions of circuits from scratch. He said he expected a majority of Dominion’s customers in the Charlottesville area to have their power back Wednesday or Thursday evening.

Road conditions improved Wednesday, helping accelerate restoration work, he said.

By Wednesday evening, less than 40% of people in Albemarle County didn’t have power. Many more people in Charlottesville had their lights turned back on Tuesday, with less than 5% still powerless.

Most of those without power in Albemarle County are Dominion customers, according to online tracker Dominion reported Wednesday evening that less than 16,000 customers were out of power after starting the day with more than 17,200 out.

Initially, Curtis said crews had difficulty getting to the damaged power lines, especially those in isolated areas. Dominion crews have been using drones to assist with spotting issues. The damage has included broken cross arms and poles and wires on the ground, which takes long to restore, he said.

“It’s so sporadic and spread out and then in very hard to access locations,” he said of the damage. “… In some areas, back in the woods, the trees have fallen and the damage is extensive, but up on the main road, it looks fine.”

Electrical crews have to survey every inch of a power line before turning it back on, which also extends the repair process. Curtis encouraged people to continue checking the online outage map for updates.

Much of Louisa County remained in the dark. Most of the Dominion customers in Louisa were out of power along with those served by Rappahannock Electric Cooperative.

Rappahannock Electric said Wednesday afternoon that it had doubled its workforce tasked with turning the power back on and requested additional support, calling the damage “devastating.” It expects most of the outages to be restored by the end of the weekend with some continuing into next week, according to a news release.

So far, Rappahannock field workers have found about 70 broken poles and expect to find many more, according to the update.

“They continue to be challenged by snow- and ice-covered roads and downed trees that are blocking the roadways,” officials said in the release.

Louisa County opened an overnight shelter at Louisa County Middle School for the thousands without power and in need of a warm place to sleep. The school cafeteria is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, though spokeswoman Cindy King encouraged people to bring snacks.

“We can’t promise a hot meal,” she said.

On Thursday, Louisa County said domestic cats and dogs and service animals would be welcome at the school. Cots were available as well as helping getting out of driveways or to the shelter. Those in need of assistance should call (540) 967-3496.

King said that about 28 people were using the shelter by Wednesday afternoon, and she expected that number to increase throughout the evening. King said the school will remain open as long as it’s needed for shelter.

The middle school is located at 1009 Davis Highway in Mineral and a temporary day warming station has been set up at Holly Grove Volunteer Fire Department, 143 Factory Mill Road.

Several other localities in the area have set up overnight shelters or warming stations.

In Fluvanna, 39% of residents were out of power, including nearly 70% of Dominion customers, according to online tracker In Orange County, 38% were without power as well as 14% of Nelson County energy customers, 29% of Madison County and 47% of Buckingham County.

All of the area school divisions remain closed.


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