Windy winter storm hits W.Va.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Much of West Virginia saw the snow fly on Friday, and residents in higher elevations braced for blizzard-like conditions as up to 1 foot of snow -- with frigid wind gusts -- are expected early Saturday.
The National Weather Service in Charleston was predicting 2 to 5 inches of snow in Kanawha County, with up to a foot in the state's highest elevations, said Andrew Beavers, a NWS meteorologist.
Wind gusts of 20 miles per hour in Kanawha County Saturday morning could cause a wind-chill factor of about 4 degrees Fahrenheit, Beavers said. Similar gusts in Raleigh and eastern counties could drop the wind chill below zero.
By mid-afternoon Friday, 5 inches of snow were reported in the Monongahela National Forest, about 10 miles west of Mill Creek in Randolph County, while 3 inches had fallen at Snowshoe Mountain Resort and 2 inches were on the ground in Summersville and Point Pleasant.
Beavers said Beckley could end up with about 6 inches of snow by Saturday morning, while Elkins could see about the same. The highest elevations east and north of those cities, however, could see double that amount.
State Division of Highways crews were plowing roads across the state, with the most treacherous driving conditions Friday reported to be along U.S. 33 between Weston and Harman, and U.S. 219 between Elkins and Valley Head, and U.S. 19 between Beckley and Summersville.
Officials warned that high winds could bring down power lines, but as of Friday evening, power outages seemed to be minimal.
By 7 p.m., fewer than 210 Appalachian Power customers in the state were without electricity, and Mon Power reported about 585 customers without power.
Kanawha County was put under a winter weather advisory by the National Weather Service. About 30 other West Virginia counties were given similar warnings.
Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said Friday morning that about 2,700 customers in Sissonville lost power around 4 a.m. when a tree fell on lines near their homes. By 7:15 a.m., all but about 85 of them had power back on, Moye said.
With high winds expected in some areas of the state through Saturday, Moye said Appalachian Power won't breathe a sigh of relief until then at the earliest.
"We're particularly looking hard at the Beckley and Bluefield areas" in terms of where problems might occur, he said.
Clark Nicklow, spokesman for the Preston County Office of Emergency Management, said winds are his major concern because they're likely to cause the power outages. Superstorm Sandy left plenty of branches dangling on power lines in October, he said, and the winds could now pull both down.
"We're ready for snow,'' he said. "Prestonians are always ready for snow.''
Authorities recommend everyone be prepared with enough food and water to go three to five days without power.
In Morgantown, Lowe's manager Bob Brennan said his store was stocking up on storm supplies, but the threat of snow hasn't been driving shoppers.
"Right now,'' he said, "there's more Christmas shopping than storm shopping.''
Two flights at Charleston's Yeager Airport were canceled on Friday, but airport officials said they weren't canceled because of weather here.
Division of Highways spokeswoman Carrie 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.
Beavers said the National Weather Service expects the snow to move out of Kanawha County at some time around 9 or 10 a.m. Saturday, and then later in the day in Beckley and eastern counties as the storm moves east. The clouds should be moving out of Kanawha County by the afternoon, he said.