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Winter storm causes power outages, closings and delays in Ashe

HIGH COUNTY — Several counties in Northwest North Carolina, as well as areas of Southwest Virginia were issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Feb. 17-18 by the NWS Blacksburg on Feb. 16. The main threat of the projected weather event was significant ice accumulation, which leads to downed trees, power outages and dangerous travel conditions. The data provided by the NWS Blacksburg called for ice accumulations of half an inch or more of ice.

In Ashe County, Emergency Management provided several updates on their Facebook page to help residents in the counties on high alert to prepare and stay safe during the weather event.

Blue Ridge Energy also kept residents informed about ways they were preparing for the storm on their Facebook page and other social media outlets. They let everybody know that their crews were ready to respond in the event of outages and provided information about outage texting, their mobile app and a phone number to utilize to report any outages.

Throughout the day on Feb. 18, BRE posted updates on reported outages and power restoration.

Director of Public Relations for Blue Ridge Energy, Renee Whitener provided details about outages that occurred within the cooperative’s service area.

According to Whitener’s reports, BRE restored power to nearly 300 members. This included residents in Ashe, Caldwell and Watauga districts.

There were 154 members in the Lansing, Shatley Springs and Laurel Springs communities who lost power from 8:21 am until 10:20 am due to trees on power lines and an equipment malfunction.

Due to the inclement weather occurring the evening of Feb. 17, all Ashe County offices delayed opening until 9 a.m. on Feb. 18.

According to Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill, there were not any reports of damage in the county as a result of the storm. She added that there were a few traffic accidents, a few downed trees in roadways and a small number of scattered power outages. In anticipation of the icy road conditions and loss of power, Ashe County Schools had an optional teacher workday on Feb. 18. Due to the increased potential for black ice due and change of freezing rain on the morning of Feb. 19, ACS operated on a two-hour delay.

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Linking the Jeffersons: Construction continues on 221 from West Jefferson to Jefferson

ASHE COUNTY — Heading into nearly six years of construction, U.S. 221 from Boone to Jefferson is coming together, despite obstacles and set-backs.

In April of 2015, construction for the expansion of the 16-mile, two-lane highway began and was predicted to be complete in February of 2019. In widening to a four-lane road, major set-backs occurred when Hurricane Florence in 2018 caused a collapse in the middle of the highway in Deep Gap.

What was set to be a grand opening in 2019, has gotten pushed back to 2025.

From U.S. 421 to the South Fork of the New River, construction was completed in January and is fully open to drivers.

Heading north, the next expansion from the South Fork to NC 194 is substantially complete with all lanes open.

According to Trent Beaver, division construction engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the project for this expansion is set to be complete sometime early this summer.

“The remaining items of work are placing the final layer of asphalt pavement throughout the project and performing repair work and erosion control work after the winter,” said Beaver.

The last piece of the project is from NC 163 to the four-lane in Jefferson. Construction on this began in February with clearing land and cutting down trees. This contract is held by James R. Vannoy & Sons Construction Company, Inc.

Beaver said that clearing, grubbing and installation of erosion control measures are the first items of work. Afterwards, the contractor will begin grading and drainage installation. The contract is set to end on Dec. 25, 2025.

This week in archives: school bus wreck, Zika virus confirmed in NC, Keith Urban visits Wilkes County

Editor’s note: This article features news and photos from past editions of The Ashe Mountain Times and The Mountain Times from 2006 and 2016.

Feb. 25, 2016

School bus struck Sheriff urges caution, vigilance

Ashe County High School bus No. 160, carrying 23 students, was struck by a 2008 Suzuki passenger vehicle at 7:56 a.m. on Feb. 19 at the intersection of Mount Jefferson Road and U.S. 221.

According to West Jefferson Police Department Patrol Sgt. John Muldowney, no children were injured in the accident.

Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said motorists need to remain vigilant while driving, especially around schools and school buses.

“The bus was turning to go onto Ashe County High School Drive, which is in between Mount Jefferson Road and U.S. Highway 221,” Muldowney said. “A vehicle entered the intersection, had a steady red light, to our understanding, and the school bus was making a left-hand turn and the vehicle struck the school bus.”

Both vehicles had substantial damage as a result of the crash.

First travel-related case of Zika virus confirmed in NC

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Feb. 19 announced the first case of Zika virus infection in a North Carolina resident. The case was confirmed in an adult who recently had traveled to a country with ongoing Zika virus transmission.

As of Feb. 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported travel-related Zika virus infection in 21 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Woods leads Huskies into 2-A tournament

Generally speaking, the leading scorer of a prep girls’ basketball team is not a freshman.

Then again, when there is only one senior on the roster, that possibility has a better chance of becoming reality. It happened this season at Ashe County when Sam Woods led the Huskies in scoring in just her first year playing prep basketball.

Woods led the Huskies in scoring by averaging 12.5 points per game. She turned out to be the only Ashe player to average in double figures, and leads the Huskies into the state 2-A playoffs where they will take on Mountain Valley Conference rival North Wilkes on Feb. 23.

Feb. 23, 2006

Keith Urban Signs Hundreds of Autographs in Wilkes

Over 600 people waited in line Friday morning at Specialty Car Company in Wilkes for an autograph and a quick chance to meet one of the hottest singers in country music right now — Keith Urban.

Country singer and recent Grammy winner made his way to North Wilkesboro night to make good on a five-year-old handshake agreement with Phil Stevens of Specialty Car Company. Urban bought a 1994 Chevy Impala from Stevens in 2001 using his first royalty check from his hit “But For the Grace of God.”

Urban had tried to make it back to Specialty Cars several times, Stevens said, but because of scheduling conflicts he was unable to make it back until Friday between the concerts scheduled in Charlotte and Chapel Hill. Stevens said he attended the concert in Chapel Hill Friday night and Urban was asked what his typical day was. “He told them that ‘today has been a surreal day’, and that it was a ‘day he would never forget.’ I would concur with him — it was surreal day for the both go us. It was a neat experience and he was so nice to everyone, especially the kids. To have someone of his caliber come to Wilkes County to make an appearance like this is almost unheard of.”

Ashe County Family Sails The East Coast On A Two Year Adventure

Imagine sailing for two years along the East Coast, from Charleston, S.C., to the turquoise ocean surrounding the Bahamas, back to the historic waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The Rees-Jones family doesn’t have to imagine it ... they can simply remember it.

Hugh Rees-Jones, his wife, Lynn, and their identical twin boys, Josh and Mitch, age 6, set out on their adventure in October 2003. For Hugh, the trip was a lifelong dream. He said, “It is important to meet someone who wants to do what you want to do.” That someone turned out to be his wife, Lynn, who met her sailor while living in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 1985. Hugh added jokingly, “Of course, I told her about the trip before I married her, so she knew what she was in for.” Lynn did not seem to mind, since she also enjoyed the coast.

The trip ended in Charleston, S.C., in December 2005. The family then moved to Ashe County, which they describe as a fluke. A friend from Charleston had discovered Boone, and invited them to come up. They fell in love with the mountains, started looking for a place to live, and found a place to settle down right here in the county.

Mitch and Josh have each written a book about the trip. The family has only been here for a couple of months, but the energetic boys have already built a nature trail up on the hill behind their house.

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Second mass vaccination event held at ACHS, more than 500 second doses administered

WEST JEFFERSON — A second mass vaccination event was held at Ashe County High School on Saturday, Feb. 20, with 520 second doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered at the clinic.

The first mass vaccination at ACHS was held on Jan. 23. Those vaccinated at the January event were invited back to get their second dose on Feb. 20.

According to AppHealthCare in a statement, the mass vaccination clinic was only for second dose appointments due to weather and shipping delays out of its control. The regional health department was still able to offer the majority of its second dose appointments the week of Feb. 15 because there were already vaccines on-site.

Originally, it was planned for additional appointments to become available for first doses to also be administered because AppHealthCare expected to receive an increased vaccine supply.

Several local partners, organizations and individual volunteers helped make the Feb. 20 event a success.

This included Ashe Emergency Management, Ashe Memorial Hospital, Ashe County Government, Ashe County Schools, Ashe County Sheriffs Office, Ashe Medics, Ashe County Chamber of Commerce, West Jefferson Fire Department and West Jefferson Police Department.

AppHealthCare Director Jennifer Greene said the event went smoothly, adding that the overall process was quicker since there is less paperwork to complete with second doses.

Upon arriving at their scheduled appointment time, people checked in with Ashe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kitty Honeycutt and Clerk to the BOC Ashley Honeycutt who managed the list.

If someone arrived who was not on the list, they were provided with information about how to complete the COVID-19 interest form on AppHealthCare’s website.

Once they entered the gym, people handed their vaccine cards to one of the volunteers and completed a questionnaire with the volunteer. These questions include information such as name, age, previous allergic reactions or pre-existing health conditions.

After completing the questionnaire, people were directed to one of the vaccination stations where they gave both their vaccine card and completed paperwork to a volunteer. The volunteer at the station reviewed the completed questionnaire with the patient and ensured that any history of allergic reactions to vaccines was addressed. If a person experienced any adverse reactions to a vaccine in the past, they are asked to wait 30 minutes instead of the routine 15 minutes. Those who are on blood thinners are also asked to wait an additional 15 minutes before leaving the clinic.

Once they are vaccinated, other members of AppHealthCare staff are provided with a note of how long the patient has to wait and what time they are to leave. This information is documented on a piece of paper which is provided to other staff members who enter documentation about each patient who received their second dose into a live database.

At the Feb. 20 event, while waiting their allotted time after being vaccinated, people were given an opportunity to fill out AppHealthCare’s Community Health Needs assessment.

The CHA is compiled every three years in partnership with local hospitals and community coalitions. The goal of the survey is to identify health priorities that will guide the work of Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga counties.

According to Greene, Warrensville Drug will receive their first shipment of vaccines the week of Feb. 22. AppHealthCare will be working with them by pulling some of the appointments from completed interest forms, which will expedite some of the wait times.

Due to the overwhelming volume of phone calls AppHealthCare has been making and receiving, Greene said they are planning to add to their phone system within the next month.

Beginning Feb. 24, education and childcare staff, pre-K through 12th grade, will be eligible for vaccine.

According to AppHealthCare, vaccine allocation, in addition to the county’s allocation to other vaccinating providers overall has increased. Therefore, more doses will be available to administer. According to AppHealthCare, if someone is eligible for a vaccine in Group 1 or Group 2 and would like their vaccine, those individuals will still be prioritized.

Greene said there is a planned vaccination event in the works for Ashe County teachers at Ashe Civic Center.

Ashe County Schools is proud to partner with AppHealth to provide space, resources, and nurses/volunteers to ensure that our community can be vaccinated,” said Superintendent Dr. Eisa Cox. “The event last month was a success and we are hopeful that our community will receive vaccines to conduct more events in the future.”

Cox added that she is glad the school system was able to show support since their teachers and staff will soon be vaccinated by AppHealthCare. She also said AppHealthCare has been a great partner for ACS to work with.

Among those volunteering at the event were Ashe County Manager Adam Stumb and BOC Chairman Todd McNeill.

McNeill helped out wherever he was needed, both directing traffic in the parking lot and providing assistance inside.

“I feel it has been an extremely efficient event, no lines to speak of and people have moved through pretty smoothly,” McNeill said.

Stumb also commented on how smoothly both events ran and how much positive feedback he heard from those who received vaccines.

Two individuals who made great contributions at both vaccination events were Don and MaryAnne Moore of McDonald’s, who provided a generous amount of meals.

“We’ve enjoyed being involved, this is a way we can give back to the community that supports us,” MaryAnne Moore said.

“We appreciate everyone who has volunteered to make this event a huge success,” Don Moore said.

Those interested in filling out the vaccination interest form can do so by visiting AppHealthCare’s website at www.apphealthcare.com.{span class=”print_trim”}

To access the form, click HERE.