Snow and ice slowed down traffic and kept some residents off the roads altogether Thursday, but warmer weather is on the way, forecasters said.
Today should offer a retreat from the harsh winter weather, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston. Meteorologist Mike Zwier said there are no current weather watches or warnings in place for Randolph, Barbour, Tucker, Upshur or surrounding counties.
"There is a lingering upslope of participation that will bring a wintry mix of almost flurries and drizzle, but that will end before dawn (today)," Zwier said. "Friday should offer peaks of sunshine with increasing clouds. Temperatures should be in the 40s."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Anna Patrick
Ski lovers who were able to make it out of their driveways Thursday traveled to White Grass Ski Touring Center in Canaan Valley for a day of hearty White Grass Cafe cooking and fresh snow.
All local primary and secondary roads have been cleared and treated, according to Mike Moran, district manager of the state Department of Transportation.
"(Today) the weather will be warmer, and should help with the road conditions," Moran said. "(On Thursday) the freezing temperatures had an effect on the roads. People should drive slowly and exercise caution as the winds and temperatures cause changes quickly on the roads."
Moran said the state road equipment is holding up well and the department has plenty of salt and abrasives.
Across the U.S., the powerful winter storm brought snow to inland parts of the Northeast and driving rain and wind to areas along the coast Thursday, a day after it swept through the nation's middle, dumping a record snowfall in Arkansas and ruining holiday travel plans for thousands.
The storm, which was blamed for nine deaths, pushed through the Upper Ohio Valley and made its way into the Northeast Wednesday night. By Thursday morning, there was anywhere from a few inches of snow to a foot in some locations.
National Weather Service spokesman David Roth said the Northeast's heaviest snowfall would be in northern Pennsylvania, upstate New York and inland sections of several New England states before the storm ended Friday morning and headed to Canada.
The East Coast's largest cities - New York, Philadelphia and Boston - were seeing mostly high winds and rain Thursday morning. Other areas were getting a messy mix of rain and snow or just rain - enough to slow down commuters and those still heading home from visits with family.
Thousands of travelers were trying to make it home Thursday after the fierce storm stranded them at airports or relatives' homes around the region. Some inbound flights were delayed in Philadelphia and New York's LaGuardia, but the wet and windy weather wasn't leading to delays at other major East Coast airports.
A flight that landed safely in Pittsburgh during the storm Wednesday night got stuck in snow for about two hours on the tarmac.
The American Airlines flight arrived between 8 and 9 p.m., but then ran over a snow patch and got stuck.
Airport spokeswoman Joan Jenny told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette workers tried for nearly two hours to tow the plane to the gate before deciding to bus passengers to the terminal.
Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed on Wednesday and scores of motorists got stuck on icy roads or slid into drifts. Said John Kwiatkowski, an Indianapolis-based meteorologist with the weather service: "The way I've been describing it is as a low-end blizzard, but that's sort of like saying a small Tyrannosaurus rex."
The storm system spawned Gulf Coast region tornadoes on Christmas Day, startling people like Bob and Sherry Sims of Mobile, Alabama, who'd just finished dinner.
"We heard that very distinct sound, like a freight train," said Bob Sims. They headed for a center bathroom.
Power was still out at the Sims' home on Wednesday, but the house wasn't damaged and they used a generator to run heaters to stay warm. Some neighbors were less fortunate, their roofs peeled away and porches smashed by falling trees.
The storm also left freezing temperatures in its aftermath, and forecasters said parts of the Southeast from Virginia to Florida saw severe thunderstorms.
Schools on break and workers taking holiday vacations meant that many people could avoid messy commutes, but those who had to travel were urged to avoid it. Snow was blamed for scores of vehicle accidents as far east as Maryland, and about two dozen counties in Indiana and Ohio issued snow emergency travel alerts, urging people to go out on the roads only if necessary.