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In W.Va., 'Frankenstorm' could become historic

Read the main storm story http://www.wvgazette.com/201210270064" target="_blank">here.

 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With cold, winter weather coming toward us from the West and warm, summer weather moving up from the South, West Virginia residents will, at the very least, get rain -- and some residents in higher elevations could be in for snow as Hurricane Sandy moves its way up the East Coast, a state meteorologist said Saturday.

The main effects of the storm convergence will be felt in the higher elevations, where snow anywhere from 1 inch in the valleys to 2 feet in the mountains has been predicated by the National Weather Service, according to Charleston meteorologist Kevin McGrath.

A winter storm watch is in effect for Webster, Pocahontas and Randolph counties from late today through Tuesday evening, with "heavy snow and strong gusty winds" up to 60 mph predicted, according to the NWS.

Rain will change to wet, heavy snow late today in the highest elevations and could bring down tree limbs, causing widespread power outages in those areas.

Additionally, a winter storm warning has been issued for Raleigh, Fayette and Nicholas counties starting Tuesday and moving into Wednesday, with heavy snow of 6 to 7 inches possible, according to the Kanawha County Office of Emergency Management.

Additionally, a flood watch has been issued for 3 to 4 inches of rain possible in Kanawha County through Thursday, according to the agency.

Amy Shuler Goodwin, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's communications director, said a state of emergency has not been issued, but the governor is prepared to issue one any time it is needed.

"The governor will be on calls twice a day with the National Weather Service, being updated on the storm," Shuler said.

As of Saturday, meteorologists expect Hurricane Sandy to hit in Southern New Jersey Tuesday evening.

"But here in West Virginia," McGrath said, "we could see some of the outer bands of the storm hit Monday night."

Having two distinct storm systems coming from different directions is "rare," he said, "and it's historic. Just like the 'Perfect Storm' of 1991, we could be studying this one for some time to come."

The Perfect Storm -- a nor'easter that absorbed Hurricane Grace and ultimately evolved into a small hurricane late in its own life cycle -- caused more than $200 million in damages and left 13 people dead as it moved up the Northeast Coast of the United States.

As of Saturday night, Hurricane Sandy had claimed the lives of 58 people, from Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas and Haiti, along with destroying or damaging thousands of homes in its wake.

With tropical-storm gales possible across West Virginia, members of the West Virginia National Guard have their "bags packed, but we are just waiting," said Lt. Colonel David Lester, a spokesman for the Guard.

Like everyone else, he said, members of the Guard are monitoring the storm. "The magnitude of the storm is still to be determined, but we have better preparedness than we did this summer during the derecho." He explained that their satellite interoperable radios are giving them the extra confidence.

"We can send people into areas where there is no other source of communications, and, with those radios, talk directly to people," he said.

On the West Virginia Division of Highways website, a news release stated that that maintenance crews in all 10 DOH districts are making preparations. "Plows and other equipment have been tested and are ready to go," according to Brent H. Walker, director of communications for DOH.  . . .  Crews are also making sure that they are stocked with equipment such as chainsaws, generators and mobile messaging boards."

Walker added that crews have been alerted to "the most probable and worst-case scenarios and are prepared for whatever may come their way."

The director of emergency services for Kanawha County, Dale Petry, said, "We urge everyone to be prepared. Especially since we have ample time, we encourage everyone to have enough food and water for at least three days, if the power should go off."

Many trees in West Virginia still have their leaves. If their limbs get a coating of snow, those limbs could break under the extra weight and fall onto power lines.

"We also encourage people to check their generators. We have already checked ours here in Kanawha County," Petry said. "For us in Kanawha County, it's looking like it will be more of a rain event. But I would rather over-plan than under-plan. So our message to everyone is: 'Be prepared'."

Also on Saturday, Appalachian Power Co. began making preliminary plans to deal with potential power outages from Hurricane Sandy.

"While there are many uncertainties about the magnitude and direction of this storm, concern is increasing that Sandy's remnants could bring strong winds and snow to parts of our service area," an Appalachian Power news release stated Saturday. "The storm remains volatile and could be a storm of historic proportions on a national level."

Already, tens of thousands of line workers have been requested up and down the Atlantic Coast in preparation for the storm, which has been dubbed "Frankenstorm" because it coincides with Halloween.

About 250 line workers have been called to the area from outside Appalachian Power parent American Electric Power's region.

Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathryng@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.

Reach Susan Williams at susanwilliams@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5112.


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