Officials concerned by coming storm

ELKINS – Contrary to French Creek Freddie’s prediction of an early spring, Old Man Winter isn’t ready to release his grip just yet, and Mon Power and the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management are prepared for potential power outages.

A winter storm warning is in effect from 5 p.m. today to 4 p.m. Thursday for Pocahontas and Randolph counties, and will include the cities of Marlinton and Elkins.

A massive snowstorm is projected to blanket the area with large amounts of heavy, wet snow, brought on by temperatures remaining moderate tonight and into tomorrow, according to officials with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Andy Roche, staff meteorologist for the NWS, said that 6-8 inches of snow is expected in the area with higher accumulations possible in higher elevations.

“Temperatures will be moderate. That’s why it will be a heavy and wet snow,” Roche said. “Most of the snow is expected overnight from (today) into Thursday.”

The snow may impact roadways and make travel hazardous. The NWS urges residents to only drive in the case of an emergency, and reminds them if they must travel, keep an extra flashlight, blankets, food and water in their vehicle in case of an emergency.

“The snow will be heavy and can cause travel problems,” Roche said.

In addition to hazardous traveling conditions, heavy, wet snow can also cause downed trees and power lines. Todd Meyers, Mon Power spokesperson, said there is certainly the potential for power outages during the storm.

“We are looking at wet, heavy snow, with predictions of 4 to 8 inches in Elkins and 9 to 12 inches east of the area,” Meyers said. “The coastal snow is wetter and even though the leaves are off the trees, this could cause limbs and trees to break off and snap power lines, causing outages.”

Meyers said Mon Power is monitoring the situation and crews will be packed and ready to respond if needed. In addition, officials have contracted crews working on different projects – and alerted them that their assistance may be needed in this area.

“First Energy, the parent company of Mon Power, has 10 companies it will put on standby if there looks to be a problem,” he said..

“We are preparing and monitoring the situation, and as the weather changes, we will tweak our plan as necessary,” Meyers said. “Then it becomes a waiting game.”

Meyers recommends people stay away from any downed power lines, and call 888-LIGHTSS should there be power lines downed.

“Stay away from the lines until it is determined if they still are energized,” Meyers said. “Never assume we know there is a power outage. By calling 888-LIGHTSS, we can pinpoint problem areas.”

Meyers also suggests keeping flashlights, portable radios and extra batteries handy. If you have a water well and pump, keep an emergency supply of bottled water on hand and if you use an electric range for cooking, keep an emergency supply of convenience foods that do not require cooking.

The First Energy website offers the following suggestions:

  • If you have a backup generator, be sure you know how to use it safely.
  • Keep a plain, hard-wired telephone handy; you may need it to report your electricity is out. Many cordless or feature-laden telephones require a plug-in power source to operate, and may not work if a power outage occurs. A cell phone will work as long as its battery is charged (you may want to keep an extra charged battery handy) and the nearest cell tower has power or battery backup power. However, a plain, hard-wired phone can operate on power delivered through the phone line.
  • To safeguard your equipment and appliances – and to ease the initial load when power is restored – turn off or unplug televisions, VCRs, DVD players, stereos and computers -and appliances that use electric motors such as refrigerators, freezers or air conditioners – until power is restored. Leave an incandescent light on so you know when the power comes back on.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. These appliances are well-insulated, so food will keep for hours if opening the door is kept to a minimum.
  • Use a flashlight or battery powered lantern for light. Use care when burning candles; open flames are a dangerous fire hazard.
  • During cold weather, keep warm safely. Put on extra clothes or wrap up in blankets. Don’t rely on gas stoves, charcoal grills or other open-flame heat sources. Deadly carbon monoxide gas – which is odorless and invisible – may build up in your home without you realizing it.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and anything touching them. If you see a wire down, call 1-888-LIGHTSS (544-4877) or local police or fire.
  • Never use your stove, gas grill or a heater designed for outdoor use to heat your home.

Meyers said there is a method to the restoration of service, should it go down.

Mon Power secures any known hazards first, usually by sending out a hazard responder to keep the area clear. These responders are not trained to make repairs, but merely to help keep the public safe until repairs can be made.

“We give priority to public safety departments first such as police and fire departments and hospitals,” Meyers said. “Next, we repair transmission lines and substations and then begin making repairs that restore power to the largest number of customers.”

“We can’t control Mother Nature,” Meyers said. “So we will just be prepared.”

Jim Wise, director of the Office of Emergency Services in Randolph County, said two local shelters are on standby.

“Both Tyrand Cooperative Ministries in Mill Creek and Camp Pioneer in Beverly receive alerts, and are ready to be up and running should they be needed,” Wise said. “The local fire departments are also prepared to serve as warming stations if necessary.”

Wise said the forecast of wet, heavy snow is reason enough to be concerned.

“The best way to combat this is to be prepared,” Wise said. “We are sending out alerts. People need to have enough to carry them through 72 hours, to be self-sustainable.”

Wise said information about being prepared is linked on their site. He said if power is interrupted, use cell phones, email on smart phones and AM and FM radios to keep up to date on the situation.