America

As Sandy's Snow Buries W.Va. Town, 'Everybody Just Pitches In'

From left, Dale McKey, Karin McKey and George Secrist return home from an outing into the snow on Tuesday.

hide captionFrom left, Dale McKey, Karin McKey and George Secrist return home from an outing into the snow on Tuesday.

Maggie Starbard/NPR

It's not easy to get around the back roads of West Virginia right now. Our four-wheel drive couldn't make it up the hill to David Arnold's place near Fayetteville, so he came down to get us in his Chevy Tahoe.

We spin through the snow, through archways made of broken tree branches. The drive is worth the effort; Arnold runs a whitewater rafting business, and he lives right on the edge of the New River gorge.

From his back porch, we can look 900 feet down to the river or 3,000 feet straight across, through falling snow to the other side. It's just gorgeous.

But listen for a minute, Arnold says. Hear that hum from down below, by the river?

"That sound you hear in the background is the generator running the county water system," he says. "That tells me a lot right there. Just listening to that generator tells me that we've got a whole lot of problems."

It means the power is out all around here. And if that generator fails, most of the people in this county will lose their water, too.

In fact, 20 percent of all the people in West Virginia don't have power today because this storm is a monster.

Photos From Snowy West Virginia

  • Matt Brewer, right, with Brickman Facility Solutions, a landscaping company, came from Ohio to help with snow removal in Beckley, W. Va., on Oct. 30.
    Hide caption
    Matt Brewer, right, with Brickman Facility Solutions, a landscaping company, came from Ohio to help with snow removal in Beckley, W. Va., on Oct. 30.
    Maggie Starbard/NPR
  • Marty Agee, director of the Raleigh County Emergency Operations Center, holds a conference call to make emergency plans for Sandy's arrival in the town of Beckley, W. Va., on Oct. 29.
    Hide caption
    Marty Agee, director of the Raleigh County Emergency Operations Center, holds a conference call to make emergency plans for Sandy's arrival in the town of Beckley, W. Va., on Oct. 29.
    Maggie Starbard/NPR
  • It snowed about a foot between Monday and Tuesday in Beckley, W. Va. The heavy moisture from Hurricane Sandy, combined with cold air from Canada, brought wet snow to the region.
    Hide caption
    It snowed about a foot between Monday and Tuesday in Beckley, W. Va. The heavy moisture from Hurricane Sandy, combined with cold air from Canada, brought wet snow to the region.
    Maggie Starbard/NPR
  • Tabatha Whitt, Hollie Acora and Erin Dowman, nurses at Raleigh General Hospital in Beckley, talk outside of a hotel where they stayed overnight to avoid driving in the heavy snow.
    Hide caption
    Tabatha Whitt, Hollie Acora and Erin Dowman, nurses at Raleigh General Hospital in Beckley, talk outside of a hotel where they stayed overnight to avoid driving in the heavy snow.
    Maggie Starbard/NPR
  • Dwaine Cockerell drove up from Louisville, Ky., to see the snow.
    Hide caption
    Dwaine Cockerell drove up from Louisville, Ky., to see the snow.
    Maggie Starbard/NPR
  • Todd Sargent, a resident of Beckley, heads out into the snow to distribute generators.
    Hide caption
    Todd Sargent, a resident of Beckley, heads out into the snow to distribute generators.
    Maggie Starbard/NPR
  • West Virginia is expecting six to 12 more inches of snow throughout Tuesday. Higher elevations are more likely to get snowfall upwards of two or three feet.
    Hide caption
    West Virginia is expecting six to 12 more inches of snow throughout Tuesday. Higher elevations are more likely to get snowfall upwards of two or three feet.
    Maggie Starbard/NPR

1 of 7

View slideshow i

"We had 16 inches on the ground this morning, and as you'll see, it's still snowing," Arnold says. "A lot of the snow has been compressed because it's heavy and wet so it doesn't seem that deep. But that creates its own set of problems, with trees being knocked down and limbs being knocked down. In all probability we'll end up with 20 inches here at the most."

So it is, officially, a disaster. But this is the sort of disaster that will pass pretty quickly, Arnold says.

And probably for that reason, he and his family actually seem to be enjoying this time.

They don't have power, but they do have friends, like his neighbor George Secrist, who rolls up in an ancient Dodge Ram. He just spent the entire day rescuing a neighbor who was stranded at her job in a town half an hour away.

"Everybody just pitches in," Secrist says.

And in a few days, he says, West Virginia, at least, will be getting back to normal after superstorm Sandy.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: