CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County leaders say there could’ve been more damage from Tuesday’s high windstorm if it wasn’t for an emergency notification system.

Ben Salango

Residents received alerts on their phone of a tornado warning just before the 90 mile per hour winds arrived at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday. The storm uprooted trees, ripped off roofs and knocked off power to thousands of Appalachian Power Company customers.

Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango said some people were unaware of the moving storm and didn’t seek shelter until they heard the warning sirens in downtown Charleston.

“Capitol Street was packed. There were people walking around. It was sunny. It was hard to believe that in the next 30 minutes that we were going to have a storm like that roll in and it did, but those warning sirens got people off the streets, and I think that’s what saved lives,” Salango said during a roundtable discussion with Commission President Lance Wheeler and Commissioner Kent Carper on Tuesday’s “580 Live” with Dave Allen heard on MetroNews flagship station 580-WCHS.

Kanawha County Metro 911 fielded 1,600 calls in less than four hours. Carper said more than a dozen people in the county were injured.

“Several people got hurt. I think we transported 17 storm-related injuries with the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority alone but none of them appeared to be life threatening,” he said.

Kent Carper

The storm packed a bigger punch than expected, Salango said. Part of the roof of a vacant building along Quarrier Street collapsed, a large billboard fell into the road in front of the Dunbar Tudor’s and the window were blown out elsewhere.

“The old Stone & Thomas building down on Lee Street, the windows were blown out. One of my friends who has a law office downtown, the windows blew out. It actually created a vacuum effect in his office and pulled a door off the hinges,” he said.

At the Shawnee Sports Complex in Dunbar, Salango said three out of the four score boards on the soccer fields are down. The perimeter fence and turf were also damaged.

The commission on Wednesday started collecting storm damage assessments. Residents with property damage are asked to fill out a Weather Damage Survey. To access the survey, CLICK HERE. Resident can also call the Kanawha County Planning and Development at 304-357-0570 to report damage.

Wheeler said they’re expecting a lot of calls because the damage was so widespread.

“This isn’t just residential. This was daycares. This was schools. We saw damage at Pratt Elementary School with the roof blowing off because of these winds. If it wasn’t for this shelter in place, we were lucky we did not have any casualties,” he said.

Lance Wheeler

Meanwhile, debris removal is underway. City crews in Charleston have been working to clear tree branches from roads. Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin’s Chief of Staff Matt Sutton said there have been some challenges with downed power lines as well.

“When there are power lines involved, that’s when it slows down the process a little bit,” Sutton said. “Most of the tree damage we had yesterday involves some kind of power line.”

Appalachian Power made some progress Wednesday morning, but still had more than 88,000 customers statewide without service with about 44,000 outages in Kanawha County. Boyd McCune, of Alum Creek, was one of those customers.

“Other than the power outage, I saw wind damage,” he said. “My neighbor wasn’t as lucky. A tree went right through the top of his house and tore the roof off of it.”

Long lines are expected at spring cleanup events this Saturday. Kanawha County and the City of Charleston already had clean ups scheduled before the storm hit. Kanawha County’s event will be in Sissonville from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wheeler said it’s a great opportunity to get trash and debris moved away.

“We originally do this to make sure that this trash doesn’t end up in rivers and embankments causing more flooding. This is just a way to clean up the county,” he said.

Charleston residents can pick up supplies at the Kanawha City Rec Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to pick up debris in Kanawha City and the South Hills neighborhoods.