Thursday storm not as severe as feared

A road sign warns drivers of icy road conditions on Interstate 77 South near the Ghent exit.(Rick Barbero/The Register-Herald)

A Thursday ice storm was milder than meteorologists had predicted, but National Weather Service meteorologists are urging southern West Virginians to drive cautiously Friday morning.

Beckley had .35 inch of ice on the roadways early Thursday, meteorologist Simone Lewis of National Weather Service-Charleston reported. Temperatures rose to 35, causing some melting, but Thursday night lows were predicted to be at 24.

Lewis warned those in Raleigh, Fayette and Nicholas Counties that they should again watch for ice on the roadways on Friday morning, and a second NWS meteorologist made the same warning for Greenbrier, Summers and Monroe counties.

"For the remainder of (Thursday night), you're just looking at some very light precipitation," Lewis predicted for Beckley. "So it's going to be periods of drizzle or freezing drizzle, which could create another light glaze of ice on surfaces.

"Anything that was able to melt has the potential to freeze again."

The Thursday ice storm was not as severe as many had initially feared.

In anticipation of the worst-case weather event, Raleigh County Schools Superintendent David Price canceled school for Thursday. Raleigh County Courthouse offices operated on a two-hour delay, with Raleigh Circuit Court Judge Darl Poling advising grand jurors to come to court midmorning.

Beckley ARH Hospital closed clinic operations on Thursday at Southern WV Clinic, Beaver Family Clinic, ARH Gastroenterology Clinic, ARH Oak Hill Family Care Clinic, ARH Medical Mall and Rejuvenation Center-Beckley, Beckley ARH spokesperson Jeri Knowlton reported.

But a slight increase in air temperature about 3,000 feet above the region reduced the expected sleet and snow that the National Weather Service had forecast late Wednesday.

Although some power outages were reported across the region, Raleigh County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) dispatchers said Thursday that there had been no increased vehicle accidents or obstructed roadways due to the storm.

"Just routine things," noted a dispatcher.

Greenbrier County saw two minor traffic accidents in the early morning but nothing the rest of the day, a dispatcher said.

"Surprisingly, we did not (see a major increase in incidents)," the Greenbrier dispatch operator said. "We had two before 7 a.m."

A Fayette EOC dispatcher said there were no additional weather-related wrecks on Fayette roadways.

Snowfall was anticipated in Beckley overnight Thursday and early Friday, with snowfall stopping around 8 a.m. Temperatures are expected to remain in the upper 20s throughout Saturday and to rise to 45 degrees on Sunday.

Northern Greenbrier County got the highest amount of snowfall in Greenbrier, Summers and Monroe counties, NWS-Blacksburg Meteorologist Erik Taylor reported Thursday.

"Generally, most snow was lined up in northern Greenbrier County, generally anywhere between one and three inches," Taylor said. "There's a couple locations that had a little bit more than that because they're way up there, closer to the Pocahontas County line.

"Main locations across Greenbrier got up to two inches," he said. "Everybody else, generally around an inch of snow and sleet, combined."

Taylor reported that a tenth of an inch to two-tenths of an inch of freezing rain covered "spots across Summers and Monroe and even portions of Greenbrier" counties.

Throughout Thursday, he said, freezing drizzle and fog settled across the three counties. He was not anticipating additional accumulation overnight Thursday, but motorists should still be careful, as Taylor predicted a "light glaze of ice" was possible on the road Friday morning, along with light snow showers but little or no accumulation.

Higher regions could see slightly more snowfall by Friday morning.

"Travel conditions will remain relatively slick," he warned Friday morning commuters. "Things will calm down by late (Friday) afternoon."

Temperatures in Lewisburg are expected in the low 30s on Friday, with a dip into the high 20s on Saturday and a rise to 40 degrees Sunday.

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