MASON COUNTY — Saying March came in like a lion in Mason County, is an understatement.
Residents were awoken by severe weather, preceded for many by CodeRed alerts to their phones provided free of charge – those residents signing up for the notification through a link on the Mason County Office of Emergency Services’ website.
Matt Gregg, deputy director at Mason County Office of Emergency Management Agency, said areas in Southern Mason County, such as Ashton and Glenwood, along with areas in the Leon, Letart and New Haven areas, seemed to be hit the hardest by Wednesday’s severe storms, though the whole county was affected. These storms came with straight-line winds, power outages and flash flooding, Gregg said.
Gregg added his office was hearing about flash flooding in the usual areas, like Crab Creek Road and Jericho Road, as well as areas that typically don’t flood, like Tribble Road, Long Hollow Road and Plain Valley Road. He added Mason County EMA estimates the county received two-plus inches of rain in about a 12-hour period.
It was also a busy morning for Mason County 911 Deputy Director RC Faulk. Falk said during the second large system that moved through the area, the 911 Telecommunicators handled 65 emergency calls in a one-hour time frame.
“Normally that time of morning we would average about six or seven emergency calls,” Faulk said in a new release to the Register. “Before noon time, the 911 Center had dispatch 69 CAD emergency events to the first responders of Mason County.”
He added: “During the height of the storm Mason County 911 was operating with five simultaneous Telecommunicators, when normal operations uses two.”
Faulk acknowledged the assistance of the deputy EMS Director Karen Jones for assistance in the 911 operations also.
“This weather event did not just impact a single community area in the county, but instead was a county-wide event,” Faulk explained. “Fortunately there was not a single weather related injury report to the 911 Center. There were rumors of a tornado touch-down in the Northern area of Mason County, however no one was able to substantiate that report.”
Faulk added: “This particularly wet situation also caused a hill side slip on Graham Station Road in Mount Alto to occur twice, once closing the roadway until the Division of Highways cleared it, and also in the West Columbia area along the cliffs there were debris slides that came down to rest under the guardrail but have not yet encroached on Ohio River Road.”
Other damage reported included a culvert that was washed out in Debbie Road area, multiple utility lines and poles down or broken, road closures from trees that were toppled in the loose soil and wind, Faulk added.
Gregg said an Emergency Operations Center was activated at 6 a.m. and was active until 1 p.m. on Wednesday at the county’s Mason County 911, EMA and EMS complex in Point Pleasant. This meant additional staff were brought in handle overflow calls and continuously monitor the weather, as well as social media. Gregg said by monitoring social media, the center was able to identify more reports of storm damage and were able to find people in need.
On Wednesday afternoon, Gregg reported there were 2200 people without power in the county with no restoration time from Appalachian Electric Power.
The severe weather also resulted in the early dismissal of schools throughout Mason County. With students taking shelter in hallways and other safe areas at their schools as the storms blew through the area, prior to dismissal.
“In addition to the normal functions related to 911 emergency dispatch, the Mason County 911 Center has responsibility for community safety and notification,” Faulk said, adding, at 9:33 a.m., Wednesday, the National Weather Service had posted a tornado warning for Mason County and he and Mason County PRO Officer Fields of Wahama High School discussed the incoming weather system to assure the safety of the staff and students.
“That type of cooperation and coordination during these types of weather events between the PRO officers at the school and the 911 Center was great,” Faulk stated.
“Everyone was prepared,” Gregg said about the planning multiple agencies do for these types of weather events. “We knew it was coming and made sure to get information out to all of our people and prepare.”
Both Faulk and Gregg spoke about the CodeRed mass notification system the county uses to provide residents free weather alerts. This system was utilized in this storm and, as mentioned earlier, can be accessed at www.masoncountyoes.com for those who wish to sign up.
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.