By Carra Higgins
Rain and falling temperatures moved into the region Sunday. A strange, early winter blast combined with remnants of hurricane Sandy — dubbed “Frankenstorm” — is bringing several inches of snow and a blizzard warning to southern West Virginia beginning at noon today. A blizzard warning remains in effect at least through 4 p.m. Wednesday locally for Raleigh, Fayette, Summers, Wyoming and Nicholas counties, while Greenbrier, Summers, Monroe and Mercer counties are under a winter storm warning during that time.
The National Weather Service is predicting heavy, wet snow accumulations from 2 to 6 inches in areas below 2,000 feet and 12 to 24 inches above 3,000 feet. Today, wind gusts could reach 35 to 45 miles per hour, with high ridges experiencing wind around 50 miles per hour. Temperatures today are expected to be in the upper 20s to mid-30s.
Blizzard conditions mean little to no visibility and whiteout conditions. The NWS advises that travel is extremely dangerous during this time and urges motorists to stay off the roads. Those who must travel are urged to have a winter survival kit in their car, and stranded individuals should remain with their vehicles.
The predicted heavy, wet snow is likely to cause falling tree limbs, which could result in power outages and building structure damage, the NWS says.
During the weekend, Appalachian Power prepared for the impeding storm and electric outages by ensuring all their local crews are ready to respond quickly. In addition to the local crews, 250 additional workers from as far away as Texas have been brought into the region to assist with what could be widespread power outages and damage, company spokesperson Phil Moye said.
“We feel strongly that we will have damage,” Moye said. “We’re ramping up our help well in advance.”
Appalachian Power is also ready to call for more line workers if they are needed, Moye added.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is reminding residents that if the power goes out, banks and ATMs could be off-line for a period of time. Therefore, individuals should make sure they have cash on hand.
Other precautions residents should consider include ensuring homes have at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food and one gallon of water per person per day, for at least three days; maintaining an adequate supply of medications and copies of prescriptions; having a battery-powered or hand-crank radio to stay informed about the weather and possible power outages; and stocking extra batteries for items such as flashlights, hearing aids and other devices.
In addition to having food and medical supplies, to prepare for possible power outages, the Red Cross advises residents to fill cars’ gasoline tanks; however, avoid unnecessary travel. Appliances and electronic equipment should also be turned off in order to prevent damage when the electricity comes back on because surges or spikes can cause damage.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office said in a news release that the Division of Highways, West Virginia National Guard and other state agencies “remain vigilant” to ensure public safety and are preparing for the storm, also.
“I’m encouraging all West Virginians to begin preparing for the possibility of severe weather,” Tomblin said in a prepared statement. “I encourage folks to prepare by gathering batteries, flashlights, bottled water, nonperishable food items, blankets, medications, a battery-operated radio and other necessities ... and to make sure friends, family members and neighbors are also prepared. I will continue to monitor this storm very closely, and I will stay in close contact with our Office of Emergency Management Services to make sure our state is prepared should we experience hazardous conditions.”
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