Snow continues to bury parts of West Virginia

With more than a foot of snow and a chance of more, the state is struggling to restore power to 109,000

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After a foot or more of snow pummeled parts of West Virginia this week, the state's governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, requested a major federal disaster declaration Thursday that would bring help to areas most crippled by superstorm Sandy and its aftermath.

"It's going to be fast because we need it and everyone knows we need it as fast as possible," said the governor's spokeswoman, Amy Shuler Goodwin, who said the state expects the request to be granted this week.

Six people are confirmed dead in the state because of the storm.

The latest is a 71-year-old Webster County woman who is believed to have fallen under deep snow while attempting to feed her dogs, Ms. Goodwin said.

Ms. Goodwin said 109,000 customers were still without power statewide, as of 10 p.m. Thursday. Fifty shelters in the state were still open.

Justin Wolfe, Preston County emergency operations commander, said people are running out of food and heat and some people with medical problems need oxygen and medicine. Main roads are mostly clear, but on Thursday morning, more than 80 percent of secondary roads were inaccessible.

"It's probably the worst one that we've had probably in a long, long time," he said of the storm.

Linda Frame, lodge desk clerk at Blackwater Falls State Park in Tucker County, was canceling reservations by flashlight Thursday after the park's generator went out the night before.

There's no power at her home in Parsons, W.Va., either. "We have a gas stove and we're just using that to keep warm and cook with," she said.

Both Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center, also in Tucker County near the eastern panhandle, were closed.

Five Red Cross volunteers from southwestern Pennsylvania have been assigned to some of the hardest-hit areas in the Mountain State.

On Thursday, three were at the civic center in Kingwood, Preston County, which is acting primarily as a feeding shelter for locals and FEMA staff, and two are at a shelter in Grafton, Taylor County, according to Cindy Chmel, a volunteer from Claysville.

Gathering enough resources for the meals Thursday proved difficult, Ms. Chmel said, and weather conditions were still precarious. In the morning, a nurse had to turn back en route to Tucker County from Kingwood because of sleet.

Branches packed with snow along Route 7 were "just begging to drop," she said.

An additional three to six inches of snow fell in the state's higher elevations Wednesday night, atop the existing one to two feet already on the ground.

Three feet fell in Nicholas County and five or six in higher elevations, said Carla Hennessey, Nicholas County director of emergency services.

The National Weather Service said those areas could have experienced another inch or two overnight.

Ms. Hennessey said primary routes were open, some with a single lane. Crews were starting to treat secondary roads but had problems clearing fallen timber.

"When they go in, they're having to take chain saws to clear the road of debris," she said.

Mr. Tomblin and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin visited Barbour, Randolph, Tucker and Upshur counties Thursday to assess storm damage and meet with local emergency management officials.

Also killed because of Sandy was a West Virginia House of Delegates candidate, 60-year-old John Rose of Barbour County. He was on an ATV checking on his fence line when a tree limb fell on him, Ms. Goodwin said.

weather - region

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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