Superstorm Sandy: Before, During And Beyond


Drive 500 miles inland from Atlantic City, hang a left, and you'll find a very different scene. You're in West Virginia now, where there is over a foot of snow on the ground. And that's also where you might bump into NPR's Dan Charles.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: 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.

DAVID ARNOLD: This last thing will get you too. This is the worst part right here.

CHARLES: We spin through the snow, through archways made of broken tree branches.

ARNOLD: That is momentum. You just got to roll.

CHARLES: 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, 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?

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

CHARLES: It means 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.

ARNOLD: We had about 16 inches of snow on the ground this morning. And, as you can see, it's still snowing. 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 maybe 20 inches here at the most.

CHARLES: 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.

GEORGE SECRIST: Everybody just pitches in together, starts calling whoever got water, whoever has got bread, whoever got this. And we just make out fine as can be. It's a great bunch of folks.

CHARLES: And in a few days, he says, West Virginia, at least, will be getting back to normal after superstorm Sandy. Dan Charles, NPR News, Fayetteville, West Virginia.

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