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July 4th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

W.Va Gov. on food shortage in state, says mountain terrain prohibiting progress on restoring electricity

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D-W.Va.) on the latest efforts to restore power to the state, amidst a water and food shortage.

Transcript available after the jump.


BALDWIN: Both of you first just talk to me about this food donation drive. I know it was you, Governor, and also the National Guard, correct? So how successful was it?

GOV. EARL RAY TOMBLIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Absolutely. We've had so many people coming out, a great outpouring of support. As you mentioned, the food banks were basically depleted.

We were here until after 7:00 last night. We filled up several trucks and vans with food. This will be - this food will be going out across the state probably later today. But it's just once again West Virginians helping West Virginians.

BALDWIN: You know, the director of the development of the Huntington area food bank, I was reading that "Charleston Gazette" this morning, said the storm couldn't have hit during a worse time. Summer is the time when food banks don't have a lot of food in stock. People think the only time you should donate is during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

To either of you, just if you can, really hammer home to me how dire the situation is for folks in your state.

GOV. TOMBLIN: Well, what has happened, you know, the first couple of days, people had the food in the freezers, the refrigerators and so forth, without power for more than about 48 hours, and that food starts to go bad. So we've had mass dumpings of food that has spoiled.

And a lot of places, the grocery stores, are still not open because of the lack of electricity. So we are doing is sending in meals, sending in about 40 big truck loads of water around the state each day. Plus what people can buy.

So, you know, the food is at a shortage right now. But we have made a lot of progress since Friday night when the storm hit.

JOANNE TOMBLIN, GOV. TOMBLIN'S WIFE: We want to say a lot about the West Virginia people too. You know, they are so used to having natural disasters and emergencies. And they have come to the table, and there are people lined up here this morning bringing in their donations.

And even people with power are saying, you know, we feel so guilty we have power. We want to do something to help.

BALDWIN: I lived in West Virginia. I remember covering floods in Logan County, and someone lost their home and they offered me their last can of Pepsi, you know? So I know about West Virginia spirit, certainly. I know it. I know it.

I do want to play a little sound. This is from a woman who we talked to in West Virginia. And she said there really doesn't seem to be an end in sight.


JEANNE CAMPBELL, LEWISBURG, WV RESIDENT WITHOUT POWER: We cleaned out the refrigerators and restocked them. And now we may lose the second batch of food. And you just have to live with no water. It's an inconvenience. But we're making it, you know?


BALDWIN: I just want to bring in some members of our panel who also have questions.

Ryan Lizza, go for it.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Governor, I'm curious about the federal response. You know, in recent years, when we've had natural disasters in various places, there's been a lot of conflict between the states and Washington. How has the Obama administration responded to what's going on in West Virginia?

GOV. TOMBLIN: FEMA has responded fantastically. We about 3:30 on Saturday morning, after the storm had hit, we contacted FEMA, asked for generators for water, for ice. And by 1:00 in the afternoon, they had approved our request. They have feet on the ground here now working with our emergency officials, going door-to-door, making sure people are OK. Explaining what FEMA can offer.

This crisis has been a little bit different than the typical floods or storms we normally have. So, you don't see a lot of property damage in homes or automobile. It's more of the infrastructure type damage.

BALDWIN: Richard, go ahead.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, NEWYORKER.COM: Governor, it's Richard Socarides. I think that's great. And the food drive is great.

But do the power companies say why it's taking so long to restore the power? I mean, it seems like it's really a crisis now.

GOV. TOMBLIN: Well, it is. We started out with nearly 700,000 homes without power. We are down to about 300,000 now. The biggest problem we have is a lot of the transmission lines, those huge lines that you see crossing from mountaintop to mountaintop. A lot of those towers were destroyed.

So, you know, these are on the sides of mountains. They are difficult to get to. Both of the majority electricity suppliers of the state have brought in help.

We usually can bring them in from next door states, but now they are bringing them in from Texas and other far away states because our sister states were hit also. But the biggest problem is getting those transmission lines back up and going again.

We've had other pop-up storms almost every evening. So a lot of people have been knocked out again.

But we are making progress, and we will continue to work around the clock until we get the electricity back on to everyone.

BALDWIN: All right, Governor Tomblin and Joanne - thank you so much. Enjoy the fireworks over the Kanawha River tonight. We appreciate it.

Filed under: Heat wave • Power grid
soundoff (One Response)
  1. AliasOther

    I guess Eric Cantor needs to find a way to pay for the food they are giving out. I guess they can cut firefighters and policemen to pay for it.

    July 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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