Some of the damage at Camp Bethel near Wise. Contributed photo.
WISE — Cleanup in and around the town of Wise, and outlying areas north and east of town, was under way from the aftermath of severe thunderstorms that plowed across Wise County on Monday.
Old Dominion Power Co. was still working to restore power in some areas of the county on Tuesday, although many outages as a result of the storms had been resolved by late Monday. Camp Bethel, a Christian service enclave located near Wise, may have experienced the most damage of any single area as a result of felled trees.
And Wise Police Chief Tony Bates and one of his officers, Wise P.D. Sgt. Jason Taylor, had a most unusual interruption of an investigation during the late afternoon spate of thunderstorms featuring blasts of high winds.
On Tuesday, Bates said he and Taylor were preparing to conduct an interview with a resident of C&C Mobile Home Park, formerly known as Beverly Manor, when it started to rain. So the threesome decided to duck inside the mobile home to get out of the weather.
Law officers are usually happy to blow the roof off an investigation, but not this time.
"The dadgum roof blew off the top of the trailer," he said. "I looked at Taylor and said, 'One of us ain't living right and it must be you, because I've been doing alright up until now.' Of all the trailers in that trailer park, it had to pick the one my investigation was in. Roof peeled back like a sardine can, insulation and all. None of the other mobile homes out there got touched, seemed to us."
Bates said he and Taylor were persuaded to take a rain check, so to speak, on their investigation, then proceeded to drive around town checking out other potential storm damage.
"There were a lot of garbage cans and anything else not tied down all over yards, things like that. Over on Beverly Avenue a pine tree hit a house. Had some downed power lines, and a downed line on Beverly," he said.
Meanwhile, Camp Bethel, blessed with many lovely large trees, had several come crashing down, and tops of others, damaging at least two of the camp's dwellings. Both were occupied — one by a staffer who was working in the office and not at the residence, and the other occupied by two of three members of a family Camp Bethel has been providing living quarters after their own home burned to the ground about three months ago.
A tree slammed through the roof of the staffer's mobile home residence, right through the bedroom.
"She was in our office at the time. Had it been at night — well, we're blessed. That tree stopped about a foot off the mattress," said Camp Bethel Director Jeff Rolen. Meanwhile, the homeless family Camp Bethel was assisting will be provided undamaged temporary housing.
A mother, her daughter and a granddaughter were provided temporary quarters by Camp Bethel after their home off Tacoma Mountain Road burned down. The oldest woman was at work when the wind gusts blew through Camp Bethel, Rolen said, but her daughter and granddaughter were in the residence when a tree toppled onto the cabin.
"They were in the basement scared to death, but OK," Rolen said.
Trees and pieces of trees were everywhere, particularly around the lake area. In the midst of it all, the Christian camp staffers discovered immediate evidence of a blessing.
"From the trail of downed trees and limbs, it looked like one of (the wind blasts) took dead center aim for our Child Care Center," Rolen said. "But it must have jumped right over it. There's a trail of damage right before (the center) and right past it. So that's pretty amazing, really."
Rolen said anyone in need of firewood, or most particularly in need of a blessing themselves, will be more than welcome Saturday to help clean up Camp Bethel.
"We're also trying to put together a work day. We're hoping Saturday," he said. "Anybody, everybody can come and remove as much firewood as they can haul, and help us clean up as well. Anybody who wants to help out will be more than welcome. Just show up and we'll put 'em to work."
A few hundred ODP customers scattered across Wise County, but particularly around the Norton/Wise areas, lost power during the stormiest period between 4-5:30 p.m. on Monday. According to the Kentucky Utilities outage map, most outage hotspots had been resolved by late Monday but crews were still at work restoring power in some areas on Tuesday.
Outages reported by Kentucky Utilities included five customers in the Black Mountain area along the Kentucky border north of Big Stone Gap, fewer than five in Big Stone Gap, and 14 north of Appalachia.
The areas around Wise took the bulk of ODP's power outage hit. There were 55 customers losing power in the Lipps area north of Wise, five in Norton, 165 east of Wise extending from town through and past the Birchfield area, 38 in Wise, 78 even farther east of Birchfield, and five northeast of Coeburn.