Frustration mounted Thursday as snow-related outages persisted into a fourth day, leaving thousands in Central Virginia without power ahead of another winter storm expected to drop up to four inches on the area.
Dominion Energy officials said Thursday afternoon that nearly all of its customers out of power in the Charlottesville area should have the lights back on by Friday night, a day longer than initially expected. Officials had said Wednesday that most customers would have their power back on by Thursday evening.
Dominion spokesman Rayhan Daudani said that patrol crews surveying the area by helicopter, on drone and on foot continue to find damage worse than expected, such as tangled wires and broken poles. More than 200 bucket trucks have been deployed in the area to make repairs and restore power.
“We have hundreds of places to get to,” Daudani said. “ … The frustration is entirely understandable.”
While there is a chance new outages can occur during the impending storm expected to start Thursday night and continue into early Friday morning, Dominion said crews were focused on restoring outages from Monday’s storm.
As of 4:45 p.m. Thursday, about 11,600 Dominion customers were out of power in Albemarle County, according to Dominion. Overall, more than 25% of Albemarle energy customers were out of power among the different power companies, according to online tracker PowerOutage.us.
Throughout the region, localities are continuing to operate overnight shelters. Fluvanna County converted its daily warming station at Fluvanna High School to an overnight emergency shelter due to the expected snow storm and ongoing power outages. About 34% of Fluvanna residents didn’t have power Thursday afternoon.
A limited number of sleeping cots are available, but residents should bring their own bedding. Food and water will also be available but no WiFi. Those in need of transportation should call (434) 591-1995. Masks are required.
Louisa County had about 34 people stay at its overnight shelter at Louisa County Middle School, a spokeswoman said. On Thursday, Louisa County said it was looking for nurses to volunteer at the shelter to provide medical advice and assist with residents’ medical needs.
More than half of Louisa County residents were without power as of Thursday afternoon.
For other counties, outage rates improved from Wednesday. About 26% of Madison County was powerless along with 25% of Orange County, 23% of Buckingham, 10% of Nelson County and 8% of Greene County.
Charlottesville’s outage rate dropped to 1%.
Debra Guy, lead singer and guitarist for the local band 7th Grade Girl Fight, had her power return Thursday around 12:30 p.m.. The power went out at 10 a.m. Monday.
“The lowest temp inside the house got to 46 degrees,” Guy said. “The first few days were brutal because we hadn’t seen a plow and couldn’t go anywhere to get warm. When we could leave, we only ventured out briefly to get a hot meal and charge phones since our animals – one dog, two cats and a kitten – were relying on our body heat to stay warm.”
Guy said on social media that, before the power returned, she was considering relocating the family and pets to a hotel.
“I spent from about 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. last night logistically working out in my mind how to transport two adults, an 11-year-old, a large dog, and three cats in a small sedan to a hotel,” she said. “Another reason I’m exhausted, for sure.”
Mary Jane Garrison, a longtime Albemarle County resident who lives off U.S. 250 east of Glenmore, wasn’t so lucky. She has been expecting to get power back on each night since Tuesday, based on information from Dominion. As of mid-afternoon, Dominion was saying she should expect to have power back between 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday.
“It would be a miracle if we were to get it,” she said.
Albemarle County Spokesperson Emily Kilroy said the county was slow to open warming centers because they were looking at the power companies’ estimated restoration times.
“Our estimated restoration of service times were initially looking a little more optimistic, and so we felt like the expectation of energy restoration was strong enough that we didn’t feel like we needed to do those warning shelters earlier on,” she said.
Albemarle warming centers on will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday at Baker-Butler Elementary School at 2740 Proffit Road, Greenwood Community Center at 865 Greenwood Road in Crozet and Scottsville Community Center at 250 Page Street in Scottsville.
Showers, Wi-Fi and electricity available are available at Baker-Butler, while Wi-Fi and electricity are available at Greenwood and Scottsville community centers.
The county will also have drinking water access with potable water at Earlysville Fire Department at 283 Reas Ford Road in Earlysville and North Garden Fire Department at 4907 Plank Road in North Garden. Agricultural/Non-Potable Water Access will be available at Hollymead Fire Rescue (Station 12) at 3575 Lewis and Clark Drive and Scottsville Fire Department at 141 Irish Road in Scottsville.
Garrison, who doesn’t have a smartphone, has been relying on Dominion’s phone line for updates along with her daughter, who lives in Earlysville and also didn’t have power.
Garrison and her husband have a wood-burning fireplace, which they have been using to keep warm. For the first two days, they persisted on mostly bread and cheese before venturing outside for more sustenance.
If she knew the outage would last this long, Garrison said she would’ve tried to check into a hotel.
“Camping in the winter is not something that we want to do,” she said.
Garrison has lived east of Charlottesville off U.S. 250 for more than 30 years and had issues with electricity before improvements were made to the infrastructure. However, she said she hasn’t experienced an outage this long.
The updates on power restoration have not been helpful, she said, and Garrison wants Dominion to pay better attention to how it communicates with customers.
“We would’ve been better off not knowing anything,” she said.
David Miller, who lives in Glenmore, has been at the Draftsman Hotel since Monday with his wife and five-month-old child. They’ve booked the hotel one night at a time because of the estimates provided by Dominion.
Similar to Garrison, Dominion estimated that his power will come back on between 6 and 11 p.m. Thursday, which didn’t happen.
After four days, he said they are planning to leave town this weekend. If he knew the outage would persist his long, he would’ve left town sooner or found a hotel with bigger rooms, noting that the Draftsmen team has been great.
“Mentally, it takes a toll,” he said.
With a five-month-old and the pandemic, they aren’t doing much except sitting in the room, he said.
Looking ahead to the future, he’s concerned about Dominion’s preparedness for future winter storms and plans to get a whole-house generator.
“I wouldn’t trust Dominion on anything,” he said, taking issue with the company’s leader rather than the crew members working to make repairs.