By Vicki Smith and John Raby
TERRA ALTA —
Worn-out residents and highway crews dug out Thursday from a blast of heavy, wet snow from Superstorm Sandy, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he plans to seek help for people and businesses from the federal government.
Tomblin said he’ll ask President Barack Obama to approve individual and public assistance for residents and businesses in the hardest-hit areas. Obama already approved aid for state and local governments to recoup funds spent on recovery efforts.
Officials continued damage assessments from the storm that left at least six people dead in the state. About 148,000 customers remained without power.
In Morgantown, what little snow there was disappeared and rain fell Thursday morning. Heading southeast and higher into Preston County, the trees wore heavy white coats, their limbs drooping over the roads.
In Terra Alta, more than 2 feet of snow clogged the streets, huge icicles dangled from twisted rain gutters and the canopy over the gas pumps at a convenience store was collapsed under the weight of snow.
Residents wielded blowers and shovels, but it was slow going.
“We’ve been shoveling for, like, ever,” said Christy Trembly, who had one son working alongside her while two others sledded down the hill.
The power is back on, but without phone, Internet or TV, the children pass the time by helping with the outdoor work, playing games and sleeping.
“There wasn’t too much complaining, though,” Trembly said. “I am impressed with how everyone’s handling it.”
In Nicholas County, 40 percent of the roads remained closed due to heavy snow and downed trees, said state Department of Transportation acting district engineer Steve Cole. Eighty employees were clearing roads in the county, where snows drifts of up to 5 feet have been reported and several roofs collapsed earlier in the week.
Cole hoped to have all roads in the county reopened by Thursday night.
“We have all week been sending additional crews up there,” Cole said. “One issue we had up there for the first few days of the storm, we would get a road open. No sooner would we leave and go to another road, more trees would fall in. We were like a dog chasing its tail.”
The same problems are occurring in Barbour County, said Jim Ancell, the county’s interim deputy director of emergency services.
“The ground’s so saturated with water, the least little disturbance is causing the trees to keep coming down,” Ancell said.
U.S. Route 250 in Barbour and Randolph counties was reopened Thursday, but Ancell said about half of his county’s secondary roads remained closed, along with dozens of roads elsewhere in the state.
A few hundred feet of elevation can made a difference.
In Preston County, residents are used to tough winters, Trembly said. They just usually start a little later.
“But people here are pretty resilient. They learn to deal with it and always have food, and gasoline, generators — some people have generators, which is nice,” she said. “You just smile and grin and bear it. Keep going.”
Schools remained closed for a third day in at least 21 counties.
The American Red Cross was sending mobile units to provide food and water to communities in Boone, Nicholas and Tucker counties, spokeswoman Katie Bender said. Red Cross shelters remained open Thursday in Bruceton Mills, Inwood, Martinsburg, Masontown, Morgantown and Ranson.