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Area tries to prepare for weather’s wrath

Pelting rain, snow, high winds and blizzard-like conditions in forecast

October 30, 2012
By Casey Houser Staff Writer and Katie Kuba Senior Writer , The Inter-Mountain

A mix of rain, snow and high winds is expected to wallop northcentral West Virginia through Wednesday, but Randolph County is ready for "Frankenstorm," local emergency officials said Monday.

Jim Wise, acting director of the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management, said the county has taken a number of steps to prepare for the storm, including identifying emergency shelter locations and ensuring information is readily available to the public.

Camp Pioneer in Beverly, Tyrand Ministries in Mill Creek, the Valley Head Volunteer Fire Department, the Ellamore VFD and Elkins Middle School have been pinpointed as possible emergency shelters, if needed, Wise said.

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photo by Anthony Gaynor
Robbie Glaslow works to attach a plow to a pickup truck as Garret Ramsey looks on. The pair was working to get the plow installed on a truck owned by David Harper as snow began to fall Monday. Ramsey said the pair was preparing the plow to go out and battle snow that fell in the area because of Hurricane Sandy.

Wise advised residents to tune into 1610 AM - the Randolph County OEM's AM station - and the 1240 AM or 98.9 FM WDNE radio stations for up-to-date weather and emergency management information.

"After the last storm (the June 29 derecho), we loaned them a generator," Wise said, referring to WDNE. "As long as you're able to listen to a radio, we will continue to feed (WDNE) updated info."

A National Weather Service blizzard warning for Randolph and Pocahontas counties issued Monday remains in effect through 4 p.m. Wednesday and warns of heavy wet snow and strong, gusty winds. Snow accumulation will range from 1 to 6 inches in areas below 2,000 feet to 1 to 3 feet in elevations of more than 3,000 feet. Wind gusts are likely to reach 30 to 40 mph in lower elevations and 50 to 55 mph on ridgetops, according to the blizzard warning.

Wise said he's more worried about the wind than he is about the snow.

"When you add wind to the heavy, wet snow, the wind is going to drive that snow and blow that snow, which is bad for visibility and could down tree limbs" - potentially leading to power outages, Wise said. Wise's advice to area residents? Keep extra flashlights, extra batteries, battery-operated radios and nonperishable food items on hand.

"People need to make sure they're prepared because it's just going to worsen over the next couple days," Wise said.

Todd Meyers, a spokesperson for Mon Power, echoed Wise's advice.

"It's not a question of 'if' there's going to be power outages," Meyers said Monday. "There are going to be power outages. (This storm) has all the making of a long duration-type outage."

Meyers said Mon Power has been prepping for the storm since last Thursday, notifying critical care customers who rely on electronic medical devices of the possibility power outages that could last seven to 10 days. Mon Power has also been calling in extra crews from as far away as Canada and Florida to assist its 700-some crews.

Meyers emphasized the importance of residents reporting power outages when they occur, rather than assuming someone else in their neighborhood already has.

"It lets us get a better picture of what's going on in the system, and it's important not to assume that your friends or neighbors have already called us," Meyers said, adding that Mon Power has been in contact with the National Guard as well as company retirees who might be able to lend a hand in the case of widespread outages.

"We have our trucks gassed up and stocked up and ready to go," Meyers remarked. "This is a marathon not a sprint. We'll restore power, but it will be done in a safe and methodical manner."

Tim Axford, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said that the phasing of two storm systems is the cause of this week's storm.

"You have a deepening low-pressure system over the Great Lakes and the upper atmosphere characteristics of that system have been able to incorporate Hurricane Sandy and suck it in," Axford said. "Normally, you see (hurricane systems) come up the Eastern seaboard and then phase out fairly quickly.

"This is a very rare situation where the weaker system over the Great Lakes was able to capture (Hurricane Sandy) and bring it inland," he said.

Bob Pingley, operations manager for the City of Elkins, said that, like Randolph County and Mon Power, it's as prepared as it possibly can be; the rest is simply a waiting game.

"We're getting all the trucks ready, getting the plows attached to them and full of fuel and ready to go for snow removal and salt spreading," Pingley said. "At the wastewater plant, we're getting fuel into the generators. Outside of that, there's not much we can do. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Bruce Minor, the emergency manager for the town of Franklin in Pendleton County, said that the local fire houses have been checked to make sure that their equipment is running properly. All available generators in the county are operational; however no supply stations have been set up yet.

Jason Myers, Parsons city administrator, said city officials are working to hand out flyers to residents who live in flood zones. The flyers contain emergency contact information.

"We started preparing last Thursday," Myers said. "We are fully prepared."

City officials have been working to make sure that storm drains are open, leaves have been removed from streets and city plows and cinders are at the ready.

He said shelters are being stationed around Tucker County at Camp Kidd in Parsons, the Thomas Community Center and the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge.

Water will be available at the Parsons Fire Hall, Davis Fire Hall and the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge.

Myers also mentioned that scanners, AM frequency 1610, FM broadcast on local radio stations, the Tucker County Board of Education telephones, cable television and Facebook are being used to reach citizens in the area.

Darla Stemple, E911 director in Tucker County, said her office is monitoring the possibility of snow and rain.

"We want a lot of snow because then it won't flood," Stemple said.

She said that snow will melt slow enough so that flooding should not be an issue. Weather reports indicate that there could be three to five inches of rain, she said, but that it's expected to stretch over a period of several days and, therefore, should not be a major concern.

The E911 office is also monitoring wind speeds, which are expected to reached sustained velocities of 25 to 35 mph, with up to 60 mph gusts. Stemple said that wind is often what causes power outages.

Mike Moran, district engineer for District 8 of the W.Va. Department of Highways, said work was already under way to keep roads in the region passable. District 8 maintains state roadways in Randolph, Tucker, Pendleton and Pocahontas counties.

"We're working around the clock to make sure the roads are treated and plowed, and we've got snowblowers ready to go if we see significant snow drifts," Moran said, adding the DOH was in the midst of treating areas on Route 33 East surrounding Harman, Allegheny Mountain and Cheat Mountain.

"It's going to be a challenge with the storm we've got coming, but it's what we do," Moran said.



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