W.Va. Gets A Triple-Punch From Sandy

ELKINS, W.Va. – Brandy Wildman isn’t worried about the snow. But with Superstorm Sandy dumping plenty on the mountains of West Virginia, she can’t forget about that late-June derecho – and what it was like sitting in the dark for nine days in Mill Creek after the straight-line wind storm.

If the power goes out this time, “that’s a problem,” she says, “because it’s going to be cold.”

“I’ve lived in West Virginia my whole life, so the snow doesn’t bother me,” Wildman said as she prepared late Monday. “The cars are full of gas and stuff, but I didn’t go out and buy 10 loaves of bread or anything like that.”

What she did buy at the Southern States store in Elkins was a tank of propane so she can cook on her grill if she has to.

The upper Ohio Valley appears to have been spared the brunt of the storm. A high wind warning for the local area was canceled this morning, however, steady showers are expected to continue through Thursday in the region. Residents have reported water ponding on the roads, some small trees down and rocks falling onto roads, especially along W.Va. 2.

Minor power outages were reported early today. In Ohio County, 379 customers were without power, 145 in Wetzel County, 61 in Hancock and 34 in Tyler County. No outages were reported in Marshall or Brooke counties.

More than 33,000 customers across the state were without power this morning and authorities were investigating whether bad weather contributed to a fatal crash between a concrete truck and another vehicle that killed one person in the mountains of Tucker County.

President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in the state early Tuesday. The storm flooded small streams in the northern and eastern panhandles.

“This is going to be kind of a triple punch for us in West Virginia,” West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. “I don’t want anyone to panic, but at the same time, they should be prepared for the storm as it moves through the state.”

Forecasters expanded a blizzard warning Monday to at least 14 counties, warning that the storm could dump as much as 3 feet of snow on the state’s highest ridge tops where there are mainly ski resorts or sparsely populated areas. Eastern parts of the state expected to get up to 6 inches of rain.

Jimmy Gianato, director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said conditions would likely be at their worst overnight and early Tuesday before the storm moves on.

Weather service meteorologist Tim Axford said the overwhelming majority of residents live in lower elevations where significantly lesser amounts of snow were expected. He said the amount of land above 3,000 feet – where the highest amount of snow was expected to fall – is minuscule. It does exist in seven counties but there are no towns of significant size involved.

Elkins, in Randolph County, is in a valley at 2,000 feet but is surrounded by significant mountain peaks to the east.

“People that live in Elkins may see 3 to 6 inches” of snow, Axford said, “but people who live just outside could see quite a bit more. It’s highly elevation-dependent.”

Ben Clark, a stay-at-home dad and graduate student, was buying beer and a bottle of wine at the Elkins Go Mart on Monday evening, after previously stocking up on supplies for his 5-month and 4-year-old sons.

“We have plenty of food in the fridge, and we’re avid, outdoor hiking recreation people so we’ve got camp stoves and all kinds of stuff. I’m actually ready to put the cross-country skis on,” he said. “I’m hoping we get 2 to 3 feet.”

Lisa Ickes’ last-minute supplies included bottled water and dog food – both of which were in short supply after the derecho.