Martinsville’s power back online

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — The freak windstorm Friday night that put millions of people in the dark from Chicago to North Carolina left one southern Virginia city totally in the dark.

“Just about the time you make the comment you’ve seen it all… something new happens” is a sentence that Martinsville’s Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Phillips reflected on actually having said in an Emergency Management Meeting early on Friday, well ahead of the storm.

Martinsville gets its electricity from Appalachian Power but the town maintains its own electric grid.  When the town was raked with 80 mile per hour winds on Friday night the town went dark and town officials went to work to get back on the grid, looking for the cause of the outage.

“We knew we had numerous major problems, lines down, trees on lines, but we didn’t initially realize that we lost our feed from AEP.  We discovered that and started trying to contact them but that was difficult because they had so many calls,” said Phillips.

Every home and business in the town of 14,000 was without power for nearly 24 hours.  Martinsville crews worked to repair lines on its grid in the city limits while waiting for Appalachian Power to fix the town’s feed.

“Riding around town Friday night it was eerie, almost like a movie set the entire city was in total darkness,” said Martinsville’s Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki said.

As the sun came up on Saturday, Emergency Management officials had to deal with the prospect that the 100 degree heat would take its toll on the residents. 

The town’s hospital had power from an emergency generator but not enough power to keep the building air conditioned.

Most of the power around town was restored in about 24 hours and by Monday Morning, crews were getting the last business outages back online

The interim city manager is pleased with how the employees reacted up in a difficult situation.

“Just a remarkable bunch of people that went way beyond the call of duty to get power restored as quickly as they could,” said Towarnicki.