ROANOKE, VA --
At their staging center in Roanoke, crews got their instructions Tuesday morning for what will be another long day of work, trying to restore power to hundreds of thousands following one of the worst outages in Virginia history.
"The magnitude of the damage to our system, it's just something like we've never seen," said Charles Patton, President and Chief Operating Officer of Appalachian Power.
Patton says this incident is twice the size of the 2009 blizzard that crippled the region, and is one that caught everyone by surprise.
"Little did we know that we were going to facing 81 mile per hour winds, which is what we experienced here in the Roanoke Valley," said Patton. "It was a surprise, let me tell you."
He says more than 70 transmission lines are down and crews will likely have to replace more than 400 broken poles.
"You have to take out the broken pole, you have set a new pole, and then you have to put the wire back up there on that pole," said Patton. "If you can imagine that 400 times, that's quite an event."
He says he knows it's been quite an event for Appalachian Power customers too, battling four days of extreme heat with no air conditioning.
"I understand that this is a very frustrating time," said Patton. "It's a holiday week, it's incredibly hot, and I understand that the public would begin to get frustrated. But we have taken every step to get as many resources here as rapidly as we possibly could."
Patton says when major outages occur, they usually turn to crews in neighboring states like West Virginia and Maryland for help. But with those crews busy dealing with their own outages, APCo had to pull crews from places like Texas and Florida – meaning it's taken for the help to arrive.
Patton says in addition to APCo's crews, more than 2,000 outside workers have been brought in – and that number is likely to grow in the coming days.
"Employees are out there working very diligently to restore service to as many people as possible," said Patton. "And we just ask that you be patient."
APCo says crews will work through the July 4th holiday. For now, they're hoping power will be completely restored by Saturday night.
Here is APCo's estimates on when power will be restored:
Thursday night, July 5 – Floyd Counties
Friday night, July 6 - Bland, Carroll, Giles, Grayson, Montgomery, Pulaski, and Wythe counties
Saturday night, July 7 - Amherst, Bedford, Botetourt, Campbell, City of Lynchburg, Craig, Franklin, Henry, Nelson, Patrick, Pittsylvania, and Roanoke Counties, City of Roanoke