Drivers warned off roads as snow covers W.Va.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians stayed home from school, shoveled walks and stayed off the roads as much as possible on Tuesday, as snow and plunging temperatures led to treacherous conditions throughout the state.
On Tuesday night, the focus shifted from the several inches of snow on the ground to the near-zero temperatures that made travel extremely dangerous.
Kanawha County emergency officials told drivers not to travel if at all possible early Tuesday afternoon. Roads, which were covered with snow and slush in the morning, began to freeze as the temperature fell toward the single digits.
Between 4 and 5 inches of snow had fallen in much of Kanawha County as of late Tuesday afternoon, said Julia Ruthfort, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston. Snow continued to fall in the area.
Interstate 77 between Ripley and Ravenswood was closed for about half an hour because of multiple accidents. The northbound lanes of Interstate 79 were partly blocked shortly before 10 a.m. just north of Bridgeport, in Harrison County, to allow DOH crews remove snow and disabled vehicles from the freeway.
On Interstate 68 near Morgantown, the westbound entrance ramp to the freeway was closed at the Sabraton interchange because of a snowbound tractor-trailer.
Division of Highways spokeswoman Carrie Bly said road crews were doing their best to keep ahead of a snowstorm expected to dump up to 8 inches of snow on parts of the state.
"It's a tough one today," Bly said. "It's going to be falling all morning."
She urged drivers to slow down on bad roads.
Snowy conditions contributed to almost two dozen wrecks in Kanawha County during Tuesday's morning commute. A Kanawha Metro 911 dispatcher said calls about accidents began about 5:15 a.m. and continued through the morning.
Putnam County dispatchers responded to several wrecks, and the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department responded to one wreck involving two cars on W.Va. 34 near Hamlin that did not result in injury.
At Charleston's Yeager Airport, several flights were canceled and delayed Tuesday. Schools in all 55 counties were closed Tuesday, and more than half of those counties had already canceled classes for Wednesday as well. The Kanawha County Public Library closed all of its branches at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Appalachian Power said it was preparing for heavy electricity demand as customers turn up their thermostats, but power outages were almost nonexistent, according to the company.
Spokesman Phil Moye said Tuesday afternoon that there had only been 58 outages reported in the Southern West Virginia region the company covers. Moye said the snow was not heavy enough and the wind wasn't harsh enough to expect a large number of outages -- yet.
"It's usually the heavy, wet snow that weighs down trees and causes problems for us, or more wind than we've seen so far," Moye said. "It's not too cold yet, either, so people aren't turning up their thermostats too much, but we're preparing for that."
First Energy reported hundreds of outages in several counties on Tuesday afternoon, but had reduced that to fewer than 200 by Tuesday evening, including 85 customers in Pocahontas County.
By mid-afternoon, 6 inches of snow was on the ground at Grafton while 7 inches had piled up in downtown Morgantown. West Virginia University, Marshall University and West Virginia State University canceled Tuesday evening classes. The Monongalia County Courthouse closed at noon Tuesday and would remain closed on Wednesday, according to the Monongalia County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.
At Hazleton, in eastern Preston County, more than a foot of snow had piled up by late Tuesday afternoon.
Five inches of snow had fallen at Winterplace Ski Area, between Beckley and Princeton, and 8 inches of fresh powder was on the ground at Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Pocahontas County by mid-afternoon.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at email@example.com or 304-348-5189.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at 304-348-5169 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Rusty Marks and The Associated Press contributed to this report.