Thunderstorms soak Mountain State

ELKINS – A huge band of thunderstorms stretching from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico blew through West Virginia Wednesday, although officials said Randolph and surrounding counties would not get the worst of the day’s weather.

The National Weather Service said a severe thunderstorm watch was in effect for Central West Virginia until 9 p.m. Wednesday. The NWS also warned that hail the size of quarters could be part of what officials called a “destructive storm.”

National Weather Service officials in Charleston said some areas reported wind and hail during the fast-moving storms. However, no storm damages were reported locally as of presstime.

“We are getting reports of hail and some gusty winds, but that is all we are concerned about,” Staff Meteorologist Joe Merchant said late Wednesday afternoon. “There was also a tornado watch but it was near Pennsylvania and won’t affect our area.”

The storms were predicted to dump a quarter inch to a half inch of rain in Randolph County. More thunderstorms, although less severe in nature, are possible through this evening and Friday.

“There may be some more showers and thunderstorms through the night and into tomorrow,” Merchant said. “Storms could build up in the afternoon again. It is an unsettled pattern and it won’t stabilize until the weekend.”

Merchant added that no widespread power outages are expected with these storms, but with the large amount of trees in the region, isolated outages are possible.

“With all the trees, it does not take severe wind to knock limbs onto power lines,” Merchant said. “You can’t count it out but we aren’t expecting anything.”

More than 39,000 customers remained without electricity across the state late Wednesday after the severe thunderstorms took their toll.

Appalachian Power reported more than 37,700 customers had no service Wednesday across 14 counties in southern West Virginia. The utility said Tuesday night’s storms caused significant damage to its system, including downed wires and broken poles.

FirstEnergy said about 1,500 of its customers had no service.

Tuesday’s storms brought high wind gusts and lightning but no significant rainfall amounts.

Nationally, a low-pressure system moved eastward across the upper Midwest on Wednesday, drawing warm, muggy air from the Gulf of Mexico to initiate widespread rain and thunderstorms over the eastern third of the country.

The strongest thunderstorms focused over the eastern Ohio Valley and the Mid-Atlantic, as tornado watches were issued in southern Pennsylvania, northeast West Virginia, northern Virginia and western Maryland. Severe thunderstorm warnings were also issued across parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, while severe thunderstorm watches were issued in West Virginia.

Golf ball-sized hail was reported in Nickelsville, Va., while Saxapahaw, N.C., reported quarter-sized hail. Heavy rain also developed just to the east of the Mississippi Valley, as flood warnings were issued across a handful of states. Waukegan, Ill., reported a midday total of 2.34 inches of rain, while Bloomington, Ind., reported a midday total of 2.07 inches of rain.