Officials dread a derecho repeat

Emergency officials were cautiously optimistic Wednesday that the approaching storm system would not be a repeat of last summer’s destructive derecho, although Tucker and Barbour counties were placed under a tornado warning by the National Weather Service that evening extending until midnight.

“I have looked at the forecasts, and it appears that it will just be a severe thunderstorm,” Jim Wise, director of the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management, said Wednesday afternoon. “We will have some wind and possibly some hail.

“I have talked with First Energy and they are prepared in case we do lose power,” Wise said. “If there are power outages, they should be sporadic, not widespread like last year.”

The National Weather Service in Charleston predicts more rain and potential heavy wind and hail for this evening. A flash flood watch is in effect through this afternoon.

There was still some uncertainty Wednesday, however, as to how the storm system is going to travel and which areas could potentially be in its path.

“This is a fluid situation and it could change rapidly,” Tim Axford, an NWS meterologist, said Wednesday afternoon.

Axford added that local residents should be cautious but not “deeply concerned” about the possibility of severe weather in this area.

On Wednesday, local officials were closely following the weather forecasts as they evolved.

Upshur County Office of Emergency Management Public Information Officer Jim Farrell said Wednesday that local officials and forecasters “are waiting to see how (the storm) forms.” He said Upshur County officials have been told there is a “slight risk” of severe weather coming to the area.

“Everyone is saying that the possibility is there,” he said. “But nobody is saying take shelter right now.”

Farrell said some of the commercial meteorologists have been predicting storms similar to those experienced last June. Those forecasters are calling for damaging wind gusts over 40 miles per hour, which could lead to power outages, along with hail and dangerous lightning. The heavy rains could also bring about the possibilty of flooding.

Forecasts from the National Weather Service in Charleston, Farrell said, are being updated every two to four hours.

In Barbour County, the Office of Emergency Management’s operations chief, Terry Wilfong, said Barbour officials are not anticipating a repeat of last June’s derecho.

“The Weather Service is saying it’s not going to be like the last one, so that’s what we have to go on,” Wilfong said.

He noted OEM director Cindy Hart was out of town, but had informed employees about the weather situation and the possible problems that could arise from it.

“What we’re doing is standing by and checking things out right now,” Wilfong said. “We have nothing confirmed.”

In Tucker County, Sherry Simmons, the county clerk, said she had received correspondence about the approaching storm system.

“Several models indicate that different parts of West Virginia could be impacted on different levels, so you need to be prepared for possible power outages,” Simmons said. “Have water and remove items off your porches, lawn furniture and secure trampolines.”

Judy Long of the Tucker County Office of Emergency Management/911 Center, said Red Cross was pulling their volunteers together Wednesday morning.

John Wickline, Melissa Toothman and Beth Christian Broschart all contributed to this article.