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State, residents prepare for storm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State and local emergency officials spent much of the day Tuesday getting ready for a storm system expected to pummel the state just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Heavy rain during the day was expected to change to wet, clinging snow overnight, creating the possibility of downed power lines, slick roads and West Virginians left stranded with no electricity.

"We are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best," said Kanawha County Manager Jennifer Sayre.

Sayre said Kanawha County emergency officials were monitoring weather reports, contacting mayors and police chiefs to make sure they are ready for bad weather and checking with nursing homes to make sure they have plans in place if electricity is lost or water rises. The county's water rescue teams were put on standby, and local officials were talking with officials for the Red Cross to plan for potential emergency shelters.

By late Tuesday night, the National Weather Service had issued a winter weather advisory for the majority of the counties in the state, with much of the eastern panhandle under a winter storm warning.

The Weather Service predicted a 90 percent chance of snow and a high of 32 degrees for Wednesday.

Sayre said county officials told the Red Cross to be ready to set up a shelter at the Pratt Volunteer Fire Department to serve potential storm victims in the southeastern part of the county and to help motorists who may become stranded on the West Virginia Turnpike. The Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority was also put on standby to supply KRT buses for emergency transportation.

Charleston City Manager David Molgaard said the city is getting its snow plows and salt trucks ready. He said Public Works Director Gary Taylor has ordered Wednesday's day shift to come in early, and crews can be brought in even earlier if necessary.

Molgaard said that snowplow crews treat the city's hillsides, but may not treat flat parts of town. Motorists are urged to use caution and common sense on the streets.

State Division of Highways spokeswoman Carrie Bly said road crews in the northern part of the state have been busy since Monday pre-treating roadways and clearing snow. She said the state owns about 800 salt trucks, all of which will be ready when bad weather hits.

"They'll probably be working around the clock the next two days," Bly said. "We've just got to wait and see where, when and what will hit."

Bly said travelers could also follow the state's 511 information system to check on road conditions and bad weather. Travelers can visit the 511 website before they hit the road at www.wv511.org, or dial 511 from the road on their cellphones for updates on highway and weather conditions. There is also a downloadable iPod and Android app.

Bly said dialing 511 only works within West Virginia's borders, and may access information from adjoining states if called outside West Virginia or near the borders. She said travelers coming from out of state can dial West Virginia travel information directly by calling 855MYWV511.

Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said all crews were on notice in case of service outages.

However, Moye expects "dry snow" on Wednesday instead of a heavier snow typically associated with power outages. The company has crews from Ohio and Indiana on standby if need be, he said.  

A classic Nor'easter storm and an approaching cold front are expected to collide over West Virginia overnight, creating potentially heavy rain and snow.

Staff writer Travis Crum contributed. Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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