Heavy winds whipped through Shenandoah and Warren County Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, causing widespread power outages and delaying travelers.
Around 3 p.m. on Sunday, gusts picked up throughout the county and peaked between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., with speeds reaching 55 mph, Ray Martin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service said.
“They came over real fast, peaked early and have been slowly declining since then,” Martin said.
While the winds died down by Monday evening, fallen lines caused problems for travelers and bus drivers earlier in the day.
Jacqueline Nesbit, a bus driver for Warren County Public Schools, was driving eight students to school Monday morning when a tree fell down behind her bus, knocking over a power line that landed on top of them.
Aaron Mitchell II, director of transportation for Warren County Public Schools, said the students and Nesbit were in the bus for about an hour while they waited for crews to come and take care of the line.
“We felt confident it was a neutral line but we wanted to not take any chances,” Mitchell said. “We simply waited on the scene to make sure the Rappahannock Electric Company came out and verified the line was indeed no longer hot.”
Because it was unclear whether the line was live or not, Mitchell said he did not touch the bus but did go up to the window to talk with Nesbit.
“The mood [on the bus] was the longest version of “Old McDonald had a farm” in the history of man,” Mitchell said. “[She] did a great job keeping those eight students occupied.”
The eight students in Nesbit’s bus weren’t the only ones kept busy by downed power lines. Director of Energy Services for Front Royal, David Jenkins, said his crews have been responding to calls since 3 p.m. on Sunday.
“We started around 3 yesterday and we got a little break,” Jenkins said Monday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. “Then starting at about 8 p.m. they started coming in…we’re still responding to calls as we speak.”
Front Royal’s Energy Department staff did not have up to date figures for the number of outages they responded to because employees were in and out overnight, answering calls for service, Jenkins said.
Other major electricity companies were hampered as well. Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative had nearly 5,000 member-owners without power early Monday morning, according to a press release.
SVEC outages peaked in Shenandoah County at 647 around 4:20 a.m. on Monday. Warren County outages peaked at 67 Monday afternoon.
Rain over the weekend made the work for crews with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative harder. According to a press release Monday evening, the wet ground made getting to some service areas difficult and trees were weakened by rain, making the strong winds that much more dangerous for them.
As many as 2,300 REC member-owners in Warren County were without power at one point Monday but by 6 p.m. the number was just over 400. Crews from North Carolina came to assist crews on Monday and workers continued to work overnight to restore power.