CHARLESTON, W.Va. --A pre-Christmas winter storm threatened to dump several inches of snow over much of West Virginia, and some state residents were told to expect blizzard conditions. High winds could bring down power lines, officials warned.
Kanawha County and about 30 other West Virginia counties were put under a winter weather advisory and told they could see 2 to 4 inches of snow by Saturday morning.
The National Weather Service predicted "significant upslope snow" as a strong cold front pushed through the area late Thursday. Wind-blown snow showers were expected to develop late Thursday night and continue through early Saturday in West Virginia's eastern mountains, according to the weather service.
Carrie Bly, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said road crews had been loading trucks with salt over the past couple of days to prepare for the expected snowfall.
"This is our second big snow event -- the first being [Superstorm] Sandy, which was kind of out of season," Bly said. "Now, we're in what we call snow removal and ice control season, officially, so we've started weather briefings and will do them throughout the weekend."
High winds -- especially after Sandy and the summer's derecho storm -- are something that concerns officials about this storm, Bly said.
"This year has been a horrible year for trees falling and power lines going down, and this is yet again another threat for that," she said.
Much of the central, southern and eastern parts of the state were under some kind of wind warning from the National Weather Service, beginning Thursday evening and lasting into Friday night.
Wind damage is what Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said he's worried about. He expects the weight of the snow won't be so heavy, which is often what causes downed power lines.
"We're more concerned with the wind, and we're preparing for it," Moye said.
"We'll have our contractors and employees on alert, and we also are talking with some of our sister utility companies in Ohio and Kentucky, because those areas appear that they'll be less affected by wind than we might be."
As of Thursday afternoon, no flights had been canceled at Yeager Airport because of weather predictions, according to Brian Belcher, spokesman for the airport.
"But our snow teams are ready to go," Belcher said. "Each fall, weather teams go through preparations and make sure all equipment is ready."
Bly reminded residents that the state's new 511 traveler information system is now active to help residents during a storm. She said residents could use the service designed to help travelers cope with traffic, accidents and severe weather.
Residents can dial 511 by phone, visit www.WV511.org or download the free WV 511 Drive Safe mobile app for Android and iPhone.
"For instance, right now the whole state is lit up with advisories," Bly said describing a map on the 511 website Thursday afternoon. "There's a road conditions tab with a color-coded legend. If a road is lit up bright red it's hazardous, if it's an even brighter red, it's closed, and pink means difficult."
As of Thursday evening, residents in the western parts of Grant, Mineral and Pendleton counties faced a blizzard warning, calling for heavy and blowing snow and total accumulation of 8 to 14 inches.
Several other counties -- Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Summers, Tucker and Webster -- were under a winter storm warning, with more than a foot of snow and ice predicted in higher locations.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.