‘Hardest natural disaster ever faced’: Blackstone cleaning up, preparing for another round of icy weather

Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 6:28 PM EST
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BLACKSTONE, Va. (WWBT) - Mass power outages are a risk of Thursday’s upcoming ice storm even as thousands of people in Central Virginia still do not have their lights back on.

As power crews race against time, many people in the rural areas are noticing how sporadic the power outages are. One Blackstone neighborhood has power throughout, while a block is still without.

Despite the lack of power, James Allison is not slowing down.

“Trying to clean up today,” he said. “We’ve got the whole front of the yard lined with limbs.”

There was a lot of manual labor seen all around Blackstone Wednesday; piles of tree branches lined roadways.

“I just had no idea until I was riding around town a couple of days later how bad it truly was,” said Blackstone Mayor Billy Coleburn.

Coleburn called Saturday’s storm the hardest natural disaster the town has ever seen.

“We’ve got to have some sort of federal disaster declaration to recover the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent just in Blackstone,” he said.

Most, if not all of the town, went dark.

“You could walk out Saturday morning and actually hear the trees icing over,” Coleburn said. “Around 12-noon it was snap, crackle, pop, boom.”

That is what happened with a massive tree outside Allison’s home.

“The initial crack woke me up and you had the roaring sound and then all the ice falling off the limbs,” he said. “It was pretty intense.”

Since the power went out, Allison and his family have been staying in their home. They do not have a generator but are making things work.

“We have a kerosene heater,” he said. “Had to go to Petersburg the other day to get kerosene and milk for the kids. We got that so we’re all set for now.”

Power crews have been seen all over the area; working as quickly as possible to get the lights back on, but it’s been a rough process.

Meanwhile, Mitchell’s Restaurant and Lounge is doing what it can to help ease everyone’s stress.

“We started with what we could do, serving the linemen, serving people,” said Kennedy Mitchell. “We know they needed coffee.”

Thanks to a generator, the Blackstone staple was able to offer free coffee to everyone all day Sunday and Monday.

“Just be kind to everyone,” Mitchell said. “We’re all going through the same thing. Help your neighbor, help someone else that’s really going to need it.”

With the impending ice storm and thousands of people left without power, Nottoway County has opened several shelters.

  • Crewe Primary Shelter (overnight shelter)
  • Blackstone Primary School (daily warming shelter): 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Burkeville Elementary School (daily warming shelter): 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

If you have questions regarding the overnight shelter, call (434) 538-0156. For more information about the warming shelters, you can call (434) 538-0235 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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