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Officials prepare for ‘perfect storm’

NWS issues blizzard warning for Randolph, Tucker and Pocahontas counties

October 29, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

Randolph County is under a National Weather Service blizzard warning through Wednesday, and emergency officials have been working for days to prepare for the coming storm.

"We're doing our best to get ready, and we hope residents are also preparing," Jim Wise, the acting director of the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management, said Sunday. Retiring OEM director Marvin Hill's last day was Friday, and Wise is starting the job "with quite a challenge," he said.

Randolph, Tucker and Pocahontas counties are included in the NWS blizzard warning, in effect through 4 p.m. Wednesday. "The remains of Hurricane Sandy will combine with an upper level low and a cold front to produce heavy snow and strong winds across the higher elevations of the mountains," the NWS warning stated.

The storm could cause some major problems locally, including power outages, Wise said.

"We're expecting some snow in Elkins, about one to six inches, and then in the higher elevations up to a couple feet of snow," Wise, who is the director of the Randolph County E-911 Center, said.

"We think the biggest problem will be the wind, which could bring down some trees and cause sporadic power outages. Hopefully it will not be as bad as the outages during the wind storm in the summer.

"At least this time we all know it's coming," Wise said. "People are aware and they're preparing. People have been out stocking up on food and water, and there's been a lot of generators sold in town the last few days."

The OEM has made some changes since the June 29 destructive storm, Wise said, including helping make sure the 1240 WDNE AM radio station stays up and running even if power goes out in Elkins.

"We provided them with a generator on the mountain to run their tower, and they have a generator for the station," Wise said. "Also, we have the 1610 AM station at the OEM office. We've moved the antenna to Rich Mountain. We'll be broadcasting information on the station to keep people informed."

Camp Pioneer in Beverly has been designated as a public shelter, and both the Elkins Volunteer Fire Department and the Valley Head VFD have generators and will be open for residents needing shelter or help.

The Randolph County Commission ordered six generators earlier this month to make sure every fire department in the county could be used as a shelter; however, those generators have not yet arrived, Wise said.

"We do have several generators stored at Davis Memorial Hospital," he noted.

Wise said that residents should call 911 in the case of emergency, and any non-emergency calls during the storm should be placed to the OEM at 304-636-0483.

"We want to tell people to make sure they are prepared and to check on their neighbors," Wise said.

The possible damages the area will see from this week's storm will be "highly elevation dependent," Nick Webb, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said Sunday.

"We are looking at the big snow totals primarily for elevations 2,500 feet and above," Webb said. "In the Pickens area, for instance, we may see up to two feet of snow or more."

"This is going to be a heavy, wet snow. We could see trees falling in the higher elevations, and electricity outages are likely," Webb said. "We're expecting the winds to increase Monday afternoon into Tuesday."

Elkins will likely see winds between 20 to 30 mph, and gusting up to 40 mph. However, in the higher elevations, winds up to 55 mph are expected.

Pocahontas County "will also be slammed," Webb said. "We could see up to two and a half feet at Snowshoe, plus the high winds."

In Barbour County, however, the forecast is not as severe, Webb said. "We're expecting mostly rain there," he said. "As you go toward Clarksburg, you're getting into warmer air."

Webb said Upshur County may also see some heavy snow in the higher elevations.

As of presstime, school was closed in Grant, Hardy and Pendleton counties today.



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