CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thousands of people in West Virginia were without power as the remnants of Hurricane Sandy dumped heavy, wet snow across the region late Monday and early today. Emergency officials were warning that it could be days before power is restored.
Appalachian Power had more than 150,000 customers without power after 3 p.m. Tuesday, including more than 45,000 customers in Kanawha County, nearly 13,000 in Fayette County and more than 10,000 in Boone County. In Roane County, 96 percent of Appalachian Power customers were without power, and in Wyoming County, nearly 90 percent didn't have power.
First Energy reported more than 120,000 customers without power at 3 p.m., including more than 90 percent of customers in Preston, Pendleton, Randolph, Webster and Barbour counties.
As of late Tuesday morning, the highest reported snowfall in the state was 24 inches in the Randolph County town of Bowden, said Liz Somerville, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Charleston, Nearby, Elkins had nearly a foot of snow, she said.
Earlier Tuesday, the weather service reported 17 inches of snow in Webster Springs and 15 inches on the ground in Fayetteville.
Webster Springs received 17 inches of snow, while 15 inches was on the ground in Fayetteville Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service said. Charleston had recorded about 8 inches just before noon, Somerville said. Beckley, Bluefield and Lewisburg all got around 16 inches of snow.
Somerville said that the unexpectedly heavy snowfalls in the area came because Hurricane Sandy's path was slightly farther north than expected.
"If it would have tracked slightly south, we wouldn't have seen anything," she said. "Since it tracked a little bit north of [where we expected] we wound up with a decent snowstorm."
At Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's request, President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency in the state early Tuesday. Tomblin told all non-essential state employees not to come to work on Tuesday.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said early voting was suspended in six counties: Braxton, Jefferson, Morgan, Nicholas, Preston and Randolph.
"Our whole county is pretty much cut off. There's no power, no electricity pretty much everywhere in the county,'' said Jim Wise at Randolph County emergency management.
Wise said the situation was similar in neighboring Tucker County, where the 911 system was down. Tucker County's 911 calls were being handled by Randolph County.
"People are pretty resilient in this area. They're used to inclement weather such as this -- usually later in the year. But it's not something they're unaccustomed to. They understand there's only so much they can do. They're going to stay in and stay as warm as they can,'' he said.
Kanawha County officials said early voting would continue as usual in Kanawha County until 5 p.m., but sent all non-essential county workers home at about 2 p.m.
"Employee safety is the number one order of the day," said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper. "This continues to be a major weather event in the Kanawha Vally and may be for an extended period of time."
Numerous roads across the state were closed Tuesday morning, including Interstate 68 from near Morgantown to the Maryland state line, W.Va. 39 in Nicholas County, W.Va. 3 in Lincoln County, U.S. 35 in Mercer County and U.S. 250 in Randolph County.
"I-68 is really nasty, especially in Preston County,'' said Terrance Lively with the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Police rescued several motorists stranded on I-68, but traffic was moving again on the interstate this afternoon.
The interstate was shut down overnight from Morgantown to the Maryland line after five tractor-trailers jack-knifed. Monongalia County interim emergency management director Michael G. Wolfe says that section has reopened.
Seven emergency shelters were set up, mainly in mountainous counties, and the West Virginia National Guard had teams in eight counties to help local authorities deal with weather-related problems, she said.
A spokesman for Fayette County's emergency services office said Tuesday morning that about 80 percent of the county was without electricity, and trees and power lines downed by 15 inches of wet, heavy snow are blocking roads at numerous locations. No major accidents are reported, "but there are way too many minor ones," he said.
Shelters were set up in several counties, including Berkeley, Jefferson, Monongalia, Morgan, Nicholas, Preston and Wyoming. In Kanawha County, officials planned to open shelters at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Sissonville, the Salvation Army on Charleston's West Side, the Kanawha City Recreation Center and the Hansford Center in St. Albans.
Those who are heading to a shelter should bring with them prescription and emergency medication, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, flashlights with extra batteries, books for entertainment, basic snacks, baby food and formula, diapers, chairs as well as identification or insurance papers and comfort items.
At noon, a blizzard warning remained in effect for Fayette, Grant, Greenbrier, McDowell, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Tucker, Webster and Wyoming counties. The warning was expected to continue until 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Several other counties, including Kanawha and Putnam, were under a winter weather warning until 5 p.m. Tuesday. Eastern Panhandle counties faced flood warnings and watches.