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They were left without power—and they had to adapt.
In the face of a massive power outage that left thousands without electricity, they did without air conditioning in the sweltering heat and, in many cases, without water.
Cooling stations were opened throughout the Bedford area as churches, organizations and the Bedford County Department of Parks and Recreation opened their doors to help. Few people, however, took shelter in these facilities. As of late Friday afternoon, the Bedford County Department of Fire and Rescue reported that 25 people had sheltered in one of them. The figure does not include cooling stations in the city.
Some stations had nobody show.
“We did dish out a couple of coolers full of ice,” commented Kevin Dellis, junior governor of the Bedford Moose Lodge. But nobody took shelter.
Most people found other ways to cope.
‘You get to meet a lot of nice people’
Susan Dooley, who lives near the foot of the Peaks of Otter, said that she and her husband have a generator. It was enough to power their refrigerator and a small window air conditioner, which they were able to purchase, that would cool two rooms.
“We’ve just been kind of camping out in our den,” she said.
They don’t have any water, so that meant hauling water in jugs.
“We’ve been going down to the creek and scooping up buckets of water to flush the toilet,” she said.
“A lot of people just didn’t want to leave their homes,” she said, explaining why so few people took refuge in cooling stations. Caring for pets was her reason to stay home.
Roger Ruff and his wife, who live just west of Bedford, left their home, but didn’t go to a cooling station. They have a camper, so they went camping.
“I’ve been eight days in a campground in Appomattox,” he said Friday afternoon. “You can’t stay in a house with no water, no power and no bathroom.”
Ruff said that there were a lot of other folks in the campground, people from Forest and Lynchburg, who also had gone there.
“One thing about it, you get to meet a lot of nice people,” he said.
Some stayed with relatives.
Boyd Hubbard, who lives in Thaxton, took refuge with his oldest daughter, who lives in Bedford and had power.
“I survived that way,” he said.
Hubbard said that he tried to save the contents of his freezer by stuffing it with bags of ice. He also made trips back every day, hauling 19 gallons of water for his three ponies.
Hubbard was without power for six days.
And some people had no choice but to stay home.
‘You gotta be there’
Walter Davis runs a family dairy farm in the Owen’s Market area of the county. He has 150 cows.
“You gotta be there,” he commented.
He has a generator that was sufficient to run his milking machines and pull water from an old 80-foot well near the barn.
“We took the water hose and took showers in the barn,” he commented.
They also had power for their refrigerator and freezer. The cows, however, were another issue. They normally get water from two deep wells, but there was no power to run those pumps.
“The well at the barn is only 80 feet deep,” he said. “They would have drunk it dry in a minute.”
He had no choice but to let them into the creek to drink. This is something he does not like to do. He said that they don’t eat as much when they do that.
“They probably dropped 10 pounds a day,” he said.
Davis got power back after three days, but he said that the hot weather means that it will be hard to get the cows back up to their proper weight.
“On top of that, I lost my Dad, Saturday,” he commented. His father passed away the day after the storm from a long-term illness.
‘We stayed home’
“We stayed home, we didn’t have anywhere else to go,” commented Sarah Turner, another county resident. Turner said that she lost a whole refrigerator and freezer full of food.
“We got in the car a lot and sat in the air conditioning,” she said, explaining her family’s improvised cooling station.
They also were without water and had to carry it in buckets. Turner said that her 11-year-old son also kept them awake at night. He was complaining about being hot.
Connie Nicely, who lives in Big Island, was still without power on Friday. She, however, has a generator that will run her well, lights, refrigerator and freezer. She cooked outside on a grill and the family slept in the basement on air mattresses. She described it as like camping out, although the cold showers were getting old.
“We’re used to power outages for a few days, so we are pretty prepared,” she said.
A trip to Lynchburg also helped her put her situation in perspective.
“I went to Lynchburg and saw the devastation, so I’m not complaining,” Nicely commented.
Beth Foutz got power back Thursday night. She said that falling trees knocked out the line from the pole to her house. Foutz said that K.A.C.C Electric donated the work to fix the line.
“The Palestine Baptist Church Men’s Ministry did my tree removal just as a blessing,” she said.
Foutz stayed in her house, without power or water over the weekend after the storm, then went to her sister’s house, which had power, so she could have air conditioning and a “normal” shower before going to work.
“Saturday night was probably the hottest I’ve been in my life,” she commented.
‘We’ll go lay in a creek’
Steven McFaden has a generator to run his refrigerator and freezer. He was, however, without water and air conditioning. His family coped by living in their basement, where it was cool, and cooking outside on a grill.
McFaden said that he never considered going to a cooling station.
“We’ll go lay in a creek before we do that,” he said. McFadden said that they could handle things themselves.
Felicia Booker lives in Lynchburg, but works at First Citizens Bank in Bedford. Booker said that she didn’t consider going to a cooling shelter because she and her daughter live with her elderly parents and they didn’t want to leave their house. Living in the city, they had water and their water heater runs on gas. They couldn’t cook, however, and had to eat out.
“I just sat on our front porch and bonded with my parents and daughter,” she said, describing how she coped.
Getting ice at Bedford Elementary School and Thomas Roads Baptist Church also helped.
Booker’s daughter is 11, but a trip in May to the Frontier Culture Museum helped the girl put her situation in perspective. She saw how people lived when they didn’t have electricity or any of today’s amenities.
Kathy McGary, who owns Cup-a-Joe, in Bedford said that she and her husband stayed with friends and returned to the house to take care of her pets.
“I’m grateful that I don’t have any small children at this time,” she said. She’s also glad that she didn’t lose power at her business.
Food spoilage was a big issue for many people. Andy Crawford, the county’s director of social services, said that 99 percent of the calls his department got last week was from people seeking replacement of food that had spoiled. Most of these were from people who were already on public assistance.d
According to Appalachian Power, the company restored outages according to priority. Fixes for outages that affected hospitals and sewage and water systems were their first priority. After that, repairs were prioritized with outages that affected the most people getting the top priority. According to a Monday afternoon news release, the company has 5,100 people working to fix power outages. It stated that there were about 600 outages remaining, affecting 10 or fewer customers, including many that affect only one house or business. According to Appalachian Power's website, there were no customers without power by Tuesday morning.
Susie Viemeister, who lives on a farm, was without power until Tuesday. She had good things to say about American Electric Power (AEP), Appalachian Power’s parent company.
“I just think they are wonderful,” she said. “AEP has tried really hard.”
Viemeister said that she put her situation into perspective by thinking of the people in Colorado whose houses had burned to the ground.