Bracing for Impact

Staff Writers

ELKINS – Government and utility officials were preparing for the worst Wednesday as a winter storm entered the area that was predicted to bring up to eight inches of heavy, wet snow.

National Weather Service staff meteorologist Mike Zwier said that Elkins will be on the cold side of the system and firmly in the snow area of the storm.

“It will snow pretty good through most of (Wednesday) night, but start to pull out as the sun rises,” Zwier said Wednesday. “The heaviest accumulations will be overnight.”

Zwier said snow accumulations would range from four to eight inches.

“Right now the range looks like four to six inches in Elkins, but in Randolph County, accumulations can range from four to eight inches with even a little more in the very eastern side of Randolph County,” Zwier added.

MonPower spokesman Todd Meyers said the power system is designed to perform and be reliable in snowy weather.

“Our concerns begin when the snow is predicted to be heavy and wet and you get amounts that reach a foot,” Meyers said. “Heavy, wet snow causes limbs and trees to fall into wires and can break wires and break poles – that is our main concern.”

Meyers urges customers to keep themselves, children and pets away from downed lines, as they can still be live, and to report power outages by calling 888-LIGHTSS, to help the company locate issues in the system.

“The more calls we get, the better we can pinpoint problems,” Meyers added. “Our first priority is to get to as many locations as are reported to us to make sure power is cut to the lines. We tackle the largest outages first.”

Meyers said that Mon Power was prepared for the storm and was asking that their customers be prepared.

MonPower is bringing in extra crews from the western part of the state to the eastern areas where larger accumulations are scheduled to hit.

“Our guys will be working 16 hour days until our last customer is restored,” Meyers said. “We are bringing in crews west of 79 (Interstate) to areas where more snow is expected.

Jim Wise, director of the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management, said Wednesday preparations for the storm were in place, including two shelters – one at Tyrand Ministries in Mill Creek and the other at Camp Pioneer in Beverly – along with numerous warming stations that are located at local fire stations.

“We are good and all preparations are in place. I have made contact with our two shelters and Camp Pioneer and Tyrand Ministries shelters are ready to go,” Wise said. “All of our warming stations are ready to go and (can be) found at fire departments with the exception of Mill Creek, which is located at the Senior Center.”

If the Office of Emergency Services in Randolph County has to open up shelters, volunteers are ready to jump into action, officials said.

Belinda Toms, executive director of Tyrand Cooperative Ministries, said the staff are on standby, but are ready to open if the power goes out and they are activated by the OEM.

“We have beds for 40 people and our warming station holds about 75 people,” Toms said. “We have plenty of food packed in.”

Toms said everyone is prepared. “We are praying it just doesn’t happen.”

Donnie Pritt, manager of Camp Pioneer, said that emergency shelter is on standby as well.

“If needed, we can house 150 people,” Pritt said. “We have room for up to 300 people in our warming station. We are prepared, and have MREs and water, and are standing by if needed.”

Raymond Yeager, highway administrator for the state Division of Highways in Randolph County, said his staff and equipment are ready for the storm.

“We are ready and have enough materials if the storm does not last too long,” Yeager said. “We are prepared for the worst. Our equipment is in good shape and our drivers are ready to battle the storm.

“We have about 860 miles of roads in the county,” he said. “We have outposts in Coalton, Harman, Mill Creek, Valley Head and Pickens. All of the drivers and vehicles are ready.”

Mike Moran, District 5 engineer for the DOH, said crews are checking equipment.

“The break in the weather Tuesday and Wednesday has helped us be able to make sure everything is in order,” Moran said. “We are pretreating Corridor H, through downtown Elkins, and the 5-Lane with salt brine.”

Moran said the department has plenty of salt stockpiled and is monitoring their store, feeling they have enough for the next few storms.

“Once we finish pretreating, the night shift will keep the primary roads clear and then start on the secondary roads,” Moran said. “If the storm lasts, we have other crews from the bridge department and the heavy equipment department that will be reassigned to help out.”

Moran asked motorists to exercise caution if on the roads after the storm hits.

“Be sure to reduce your speed and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front,” Moran said. “Stay back at least 100 feet from salt and cinder trucks to keep from getting sprayed. Make sure you have good quality snow tires.”

Moran said, if needed, officials would put up emergency signs at the foot of the mountains to warn those not familiar with the road conditions that chains are recommended.

City of Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley said the city’s street department was prepared to battle the winter blast. He said the city follows a plan when winter storms are looming.

“We are doing the same things we do to get ready for any storm,” he said Wednesday morning. “Everything is fueled up and ready to go.”

He said street crew members spent the hours before the storm placing plows on trucks and ensuring they were loaded with salt.

Pingley said the forecast of heavy, wet snow does cause concern. He said tree limbs and power lines could be in danger of falling if heavy accumulations occur.

“Whatever comes down, we will deal with it,” Pingley said.

Dan Page, a communications manager for Frontier Communications, said that the critical element is keeping the electricity on.

“If power stays on, we will be in good shape,” Page said. “The goal is to keep power on for our network.”

“With the events of 2012, we became very familiar with what can happen with heavy, wet snow,” Page added.