The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 19, 2009

State of emergency

The worst winter storm to hit southern West Virginia in nearly 12 years paralyzed much of the region Friday night and early Saturday, closing major highways and leaving motorists stranded in their vehicles for hours.

Southbound traffic on the West Virginia Turnpike from Charleston and Beckley came to a standstill because of a number of accidents involving tractor-trailers.

A woman from South Carolina called The Register-Herald on Saturday morning and said her parents, trying to return home from Michigan, had been stranded since 6:30 p.m. Friday about 50 miles north of Beckley. She said her father is diabetic and that her parents were down to two oranges and a PowerBar.

She said they were also unable to turn around and go back to Charleston because of a concrete barrier between the northbound and southbound lanes.

“We can’t get any information (from authorities),” she said.

Another woman said her son, a student at Xavier University in Cincinnati, was driving home to Roanoke, Va., when he got stranded about 11 miles north of Beckley.

“He’s been sitting there 13 hours and hasn’t moved at all,” she said. “He has no food or water, and he’s cold.”

Another caller said his two sisters had been stranded all night on Interstate 64.

“They’ve been unable to reach anybody to tell them anything,” he said.

Coal miner John Crump, who works near Mossy and lives near Coal City, was stuck in turnpike traffic beginning at about 6 p.m. Friday. He finally made it to his home around 6 a.m. today. He said traffic was "at a standstill" for nearly 10 hours on the turnpike. "It's a mess," he said from his four-wheel-drive truck while waiting. "I haven't seen anybody from the turnpike," he said about 6 hours into the ordeal.

Gov. Joe Manchin declared a state of emergency, and National Guard personnel and heavy equipment were dispatched to the turnpike just north of Beckley to move disabled vehicles.

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