Western Tidewater cleaning up from Irene

Published 1:41 pm Sunday, August 28, 2011

FRANKLIN—At about 9 p.m. Saturday, Jerry Robertson woke up and wandered from his bedroom to the living room in his dark home on New Market Road in Courtland. Ten minutes later, a 50- to 60-foot oak crashed onto the roof above that bedroom.

“It’s God,” his wife, Susan, 50, gave as the reason for her husband waking up. “We’re just thankful we’re OK. God had his hand in it.”

Nikki Robertson, 22, looks at the 50- to 60-foot oak that fell onto her parents' home on New Market Road, Courtland, from Hurricane Irene on Sunday. GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

As of noon Sunday, no injuries or major damages were reported in Western Tidewater.

“What we have is what you’ve seen,” said Isle of Wight County spokesperson Don Robertson. “Trees down in certain areas across power lines, a lot of power outages and minor flooding in low-lying areas. There are some roads with water on them.”

The emergency operation center lost its Internet, so it’s hard to tell how many folks are without power without consulting the Virginia Dominion Power website, Robertson said.

“I’ve heard 13,000 being batted around,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s households or people. Again, we’re not quite sure how relative those numbers are.”

As of 3 p.m. Sunday, some 5,600 Community Electric Cooperative customers were without power, down from 7,800 on Saturday night, said spokesman Gregory Cook.

Electrical construction and right-of-way crews have been brought in from other cooperatives as well as independent contractors to aid in the restoration process, Cook said.

“It is too early to tell at this time when service will be restored” to the remaining customers,” Cook said. “It is our hope to have the majority of our consumers back on in the next two to three days.”

Residents on the Carrsville and Rushmere water systems were asked to boil their drinking and cooking water. The water system lost pressure due to the power being out.

“There’s a requirement, when it drops to a certain level, you have to notify people to boil their water,” Robertson said. “There’s always a potential (for contamination). It’s highly unlikely, but there is the likelihood.”

City crews in Franklin on Saturday night began clearing debris and downed trees, and repairing power lines, said Franklin Fire Capt. Tim Dunn.

Dunn said there were some car accidents; no one was hurt.

Crews are working Sunday to restore power. There is a “realistic possibility” that most, if not all, city customers will get power back today, he said.

Charter Cable and Internet service remained out in the city on Sunday.

Greg Cobb, who lives on Highway 35 between Courtland and Boykins, was out Sunday morning cutting up a 40-foot tree that had fallen. That was the extent of the damage at his home, which lost power at about noon Saturday.

Ronald Darden, 56, anticipates it will take him about two weeks to clean up the limbs and branches around his trailer on Shiloh Road near Boykins.

“I heard a lot of roaring and the trailer moved,” Darden said.

Newsoms Mayor Harvey Porter said the town is littered with limbs, while the siding at the Methodist Church was lost. A pine tree from Beale Carter’s yard on South Main Street as of late Sunday morning had the road blocked.

Sibling Brittany and Jack Bunn walk down South Main Street in Newsoms, taking a cooler to their grandmother, Joan Bunn, on Sunday morning. The pine from Beale Carter's yard fell onto the road on Saturday evening during Hurricane Irene. GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

“We’re waiting for VDOT,” Porter said. “Cedar, pecan and pine (trees) did not fare well.”

While some of Newsoms lost power about 3 p.m., others in town lost power two hours later. As of Sunday morning, no one had power, Porter said.

James “Greg” Mason and his wife, Belinda, on Sunday were cutting up a 90-foot oak that fell on their 2006 Ford pickup and their “little house.”

Belinda Mason explained that her “little house” is a glorified shed that matches their home. She uses it to store clothing, chairs and belongings from her mother who passed in 2009.

The 75- to 80-year-old oak tree fell at about 6:30 p.m.

“It was a terrible crash,” Belinda Mason said.

A red oak fell on a pump house and well at the home of Tim Ashworth on Johnsons Mill Road, Sedley. The tree missed his home by 15 feet.

“It sounded like a shotgun going off,” said Ashworth.

Mark Pierce shared a story about standing in an open field at his home on Unity Road outside Sedley during the storm. He said the wind was whipping through the field and he got 12 inches of rain at his home. The cotton around his home is in pretty rough shape.

As for the Robertsons on New Market Road, they were unable to remain in their home and stayed with relatives nearby.

Their daughter, Nikki, 22, said the tree falling on the home sounded like a big boom with glass shattering.

Jerry Robertson grew up in the 62-year-old home with his eight siblings.

Dale Liesch and Mitzi Lusk contributed to this story.