Sandy dumps snow on West Virginia


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As officials in Pennsylvania from Harrisburg west talked this morning about the mild impact of the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, West Virginians experienced something different.

On Interstate 79 this morning heavy rain turned to wintry mix at Mount Morris, becoming heavy snow around the West Virginia line.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a preemptive state of emergency on Monday and dispatched National Guard troops.

"We probably have 97 percent of our county without power," said Kathy Mace, the Preston County administrator, who was helping out this morning in the Office of Emergency Management. "We have power lines down in every community. Trees are coming down faster than we can clear them. We probably have an average of between one and three-and-a-half feet of snow and its still coming down. This is very wet, heavy slushy snow and the plows can hardly keep up because of the number of trees down. Phone outages and cell outages are widespread throughout the county."

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Interstate 68 in West Virginia reopened eastbound and westbound mid-afternoon, but the snow was still coming down, making conditions difficult for drivers.

Some of the deployed West Virginia National Guard units delivered Meals Ready to Eat to stranded motorists in I-68, according to the emergency management division.

West Virginia University never shut down, although an untold number of students, professors and staff were unable to make it to class.

Luke Jozwick, a teaching assistant who was to run a sophomore-level biology lab at 10 a.m., said seven of the 15 students showed up. The others "sent me e-mails saying they had travel problems. People who lived a few miles away couldn't get their car out of the driveway," he said.

Mr. Jozwick came to work in a 4-wheel-drive SUV "and it was slipping around," he said.

Jodie Jackson and her husband were among the WVU employees who didn't make it in for work. They live near a wildlife management area in unincorporated Monongalia County, near the Preston County line.

"We have no electricity," she said. "It went off at around 2 in the morning and still hasn't come back on. We have a foot of snow out here."

She is director of research for WVU's Office of Rural Health. Her husband is an economics professor.

"We both have four wheel drive with a lot of clearance, but when I attempted to get out and saw how bad the road was, I decided to stay," she said in the early afternoon. "It was still snowing, alhough the temperature was above freezing. As long as we're in the living room with the fireplace, it's comfortable."

Snow was still accumulating in the ridges of Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

By the afternoon, nearly 18 inches of snow had fallen in Tucker and Tucker counties, West Virginia, and 12 inches was reported in Garrett County, Maryland, which saw white-out conditions.

Emergency management agencies in West Virginia reported 12 crashes on I-68 before it was shut down in both directions to the Maryland line.

They had originally hoped to reopen the westbound lanes, but at 10:30 a.m. the Preston County Office of Emergency Management reported that the entire stretch of interstate remained closed, with no estimate of when it could reopen.

Preston County, which covers a vast swath of rural, wooded and mountainous areas south and east of Morgantown, is under a state of emergency with multiple serious problems.

By this morning authorities had established one emergency shelter in Bruceton Mills and were preparing to open another at the Craig Civic Arena in Kingwood, Ms. Mace, the county administrator, said.

Anyone whose heat is out can go, but those who need power for their medical oxygen supply were especially urged to go there.

"This power outage could last for a while," she said.

In Morgantown, where there was perhaps four inches of snow on often steep the winding roads, road crews had done their work by afternoon traffic was moving easily.

While a number of cars spun off roads into ditches, there were no crashes with serious injuries in Monongalia County, said Pamela Feathers, the county's assistant director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"We might get a bit more snow until about six," she said. "After that it's supposed to turn to rain. We have really kind of lucked out compared to some of the other counties."

weather - mobilehome - nation - breaking - region - state

Ann Rodgers: arodgers@post-gazette.com. First Published October 30, 2012 6:30 PM


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