Early season snows are not unusual in the Monongahela National Forest. The heavy, deep snows resulting from the remains of Hurricane Sandy have caused more effects than the normal snows, however. Many forest roads remain blocked by downed trees and branches, and it may be spring before some of these roads can be reached, and cleared. Hiking trails are similarly affected.
The worst of the damage appears to be at lower elevations, and in a band from the Richwood area through Elkins and to the Parsons area. The Marlinton-White Sulphur Ranger district on the southeast side of the forest, and the eastern area around Petersburg are mostly unaffected.
Fortunately many developed campgrounds were already closed for the season, so there were fewer people recreating in the forest than at the height of summer. District employees went site to site in open areas, and along popular trail areas prior to the storm to warn visitors and help them avoid the expected damage. Fortunately there have been no visitor injuries reported.
With hunting season already begun, many people are anxious to get back into the woods. This will be a challenging season for hunting, since so many trees block access. Forest Service and other crews are on the ground assessing damage and beginning the lengthy process of clearing roads.
The forest priority is on clearing roads which are normally open this time of year so that they may be safely traveled. Given the severity of widespread damage, and the winter season, some areas may not even be assessed until spring.
Forest Service officials stress the need for visitors to be extremely cautious if they venture into the woods. Falling limbs and trees can easily injure or kill a person. Additional winds and snow will bring down weakened trees, so even if a trail or camping area was clear one day it can become unsafe the next.
Constant awareness of the surroundings and changes in weather will be needed for many months to come.