By Carra Higgins
Operating under a state of emergency declared by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Monday, West Virginians prepared for everything from several feet of snow to high winds and rain.
In southern West Virginia, a blizzard warning remains in effect through 4 p.m. Wednesday for Fayette, Greenbrier, Raleigh, Nicholas and Wyoming counties and a winter storm warning is in effect for Summers, Mercer and Monroe counties.
Snow accumulation in elevations above 3,000 feet could reach between 1 to 3 feet, while locations below 2,000 could see between 11 to 18 inches. Winds will be between 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts as high as 50 miles per hour.
The heavy, wet snow and high winds will create low to zero driving visibility and downed trees and power lines. Structural damage to buildings could also occur.
Appalachian Power Co. crews spent part of Monday moving into staging areas and finalizing restoration logistics. This includes getting outside crews oriented and ready to respond alongside Appalachian Power employees. A spokesman said that in anticipation of outages, the company has secured more than 400 outside workers and will continue efforts to secure additional workers from its six sister companies within AEP.
Safety of workers will be a priority for APCO. Should outages occur, damage assessments will begin as soon as the weather passes to the point that it is safe for workers to be in the field. Service restoration is handled by priority, meaning essential public safety facilities are repaired first, followed by trouble areas affecting the most customers. From there, small clusters of customers are repaired and then individual homes and businesses.
By Monday evening, around 150 Appalachian Power customers in Raleigh County and nearly 800 customers in Mercer County were without electricity. Approximately 1,700 total West Virginia Appalachian customers did not have power. Fewer than 50 Mon Power customers in Nicholas County were affected by outages.
Frontier Communications was also already seeing the effects of Hurricane Sandy Monday in West Virginia’s eastern counties and highlands, but the company says crews are prepared to handle the expected storm damage.
“We have prepared our crews with the resources they need to get into the field as the need arises,” said Dana Waldo, senior vice president and general manager for Frontier Communications in West Virginia.
Power outages do not necessarily mean that phone service could be lost, too. Waldo says that a corded phone plugged directly into the Frontier network enables many customers to have phone service.
In order to keep communications open, Frontier’s network will be energized with generators and batteries if the storm interrupts power delivery. In addition, Frontier operations teams have equipped fleet vehicles with extra fuel and lighting, placed emergency network supplies throughout company facilities and taken inventory of supplies needed after severe weather for restoration.
The West Virginia National Guard and Division of Highways crews are ready for the snowfall and other predicted weather, Tomblin’s office said.
Locally, emergency offices and shelters were preparing Monday for what was being considered a “wait and see” situation.
Kevin Taylor, director of Beckley Emergency Services, said Raleigh County government agencies conducted a conference call at noon Monday to discuss plans of action, including the preparation to open three shelters: Dream Center, Raleigh County Community Action and the Commission on Aging. The Commission on Aging shelter is primarily for those with oxygen and medical-related needs.
Taylor said local public and private agencies are prepared and are currently waiting to see just how much snow and damage occurs. The unknown factors are exactly how much snow the area will receive and whether the power will go out.
Multiple cancellations and closings were also being reported. Citizens should call ahead before traveling out.
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School, events cancelled in the area
By Sarah Plummer
Snowfall and wind may interfere with Halloween activities. Among the cities that have trick-or-treat scheduled tonight are Ansted, Fayetteville, Summersville, Richwood and Oceana.
By Monday afternoon, many town officials said it was too early to tell if their trick-or-treat festivities would be canceled. Parents should use their own discretion and/or contact their city hall prior to going out.
A Tailgate Trick or Treat scheduled for Wednesday at the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center has been canceled.
All branches of the Raleigh County Public Library closed at noon Monday and the library expects it will also be closed today due to inclement weather. They urge patrons to call before attempting to visit.
Mountain State University announced at 5 p.m. Monday that it would be running two hours late on its inclement weather schedule. Classes may, however, be canceled by morning depending on weather conditions.
Concord University’s Athens and Beckley campuses will be closed today.
In addition, National Park Service Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services Robin Snyder announced all New River Gorge National River visitor centers, campgrounds and trails are closed until further notice due to the storm.
This includes Grandview, Canyon Rim, Sandstone and Thurmond Visitor Centers as well as camping near Thurmond, Price, Glade Creek Road, Backus Mountain Road, Cunard, Thayer, and Gauley River National Recreation Area.
Beckley Mayor Emmett Pugh announced the Beckley City hall offices located at 409 S. Kanawha St. will be closed today.
Raleigh, Wyoming and Greenbrier courts will also be closed today.
The Beckley Area Foundation’s Grant Workshop slated for 4:40 p.m. today has been canceled and the Raleigh County Commission on Aging Glen Daniel and Coal City Nutrition Sites will also be closed today.
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