Remnants of Sandy bring snow, wind, outages
Hurricane Sandy left its destructive mark throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and right here in Pocahontas County Monday afternoon and into Tuesday.
Nearly two feet of snow fell at the county's highest elevations—though total accumulation varied widely, with some low-lying areas receiving only an inch or so of wet snow.
But while the snow was spotty, strong winds and resulting power outages and disrupted phone service were widespread throughout Pocahontas County and much of the rest of the state.
The exception was the Hillsboro area, where residents woke up to scattered outages, according to Pocahontas County Emergency Services Director Shawn Dunbrack.
"MonPower is having difficulty in assessing damages due to the inability to get aircraft in the air to fly the lines," Dunbrack stated in an update Tuesday morning. "They do know that there are no main transmission lines down so this is good news. However, without being able to assess the damages they cannot provide us with an estimated time of restoration."
At the height of Tuesday's outages, MonPower estimated it had 4,785 customers without power in Pocahontas County. Citing the widespread nature of the outages, which affected more than 265,000 customers across the state, MonPower had not yet released any estimates of when power might be fully restored.
By mid-afternoon, Dunbrack said power was restored to the majority of customers in Pocahontas County south of Dunmore.
"Telephone service is restored to most areas as well," said Dunbrack, "with the most outages again being north of Dunmore."
In all, more than seven million people in the eastern United States were estimated to be without power Tuesday afternoon.
Warming shelters were opened on the second floor of the Marlinton Municipal Building and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. By Tuesday afternoon, Dunbrack said no one had checked into the Marlinton shelter. As a result, it closed at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
In Green Bank, Dunbrack said the NRAO shelter may remain open "depending on the power situation."
Residents in the Green Bank area could use the shelter to get warm, plug in oxygen machines and get water, said Dunbrack.
Two three-person National Guard Health and Welfare teams based in Marlinton made trips along the county's secondary roads throughout the day Tuesday, according to Dunbrack. These teams checked on residents and provided water and assistance where needed.
Frontier was working to put generators in place at their facilities in efforts to restore phone service throughout the county.
"Our crews are using batteries and generators to energize our networks while giving priority to keeping local 911 offices operational," said Dana Waldo, senior vice president and general manager for Frontier in West Virginia.
Waldo said challenging road conditions were affecting Frontier's ability to reach some of the company's more remote sites, including those that have lost commercial power.
"We are constantly assessing our networks and moving our crews and equipment to keep customers connected," Waldo said.
All primary roads in Pocahontas County were being treated by the West Virginia Division of Highways and are passable, according to Dunbrack. The lone exception was West Virginia Route 39 west, which was closed at the Pocahontas and Greenbrier county line due to snow and downed trees.
As Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Charleston issued a Blizzard Warning for Pocahontas County and surrounding counties. The storm would bring winds in excess of 60 miles per hour and snow accumulations of a few inches to a foot or more depending on elevation.
By Monday afternoon, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin had declared a State of Emergency for all of West Virginia and activated 150 National Guard Troops to assist with state preparations and the aftermath of the storm.
Late Monday evening, President Barak Obama signed a Federal Emergency Declaration for West Virginia, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security, Federal
Emergency Management Agency to mobilize equipment and resources in the state.
Pocahontas County Schools dismissed mid-day Monday. As the storm intensified and brought increasing snow to the mountains of West Virginia, Tuesday's closure was announced later that evening.
Snowshoe Mountain Resort, with an elevation of 4,848 feet, found itself in the national spotlight, as forecasters predicted it would receive some of the highest snowfall amounts from the storm as it moved into the region.
During the height of the storm, The Weather Channel's Janel Klein gave live, televised updates from the mountain-top resort in the blowing snow.
The resort received 19 inches of snow, by mid-day Tuesday, with winds clocking 60 miles per hour, according to spokesperson Krysty Ronchetti.
"We are expecting between one and a half to two feet of more snow in next 24 hours," Ronchetti said Tuesday afternoon.
As of press time, The National Weather Service Blizzard Warning remained in effect for Pocahontas County until 4 p.m. Wednesday, with forecasts calling for winds gusting up to 45 miles per hour and several more inches of snowfall Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning.
"Residents need to continue to check on neighbors, stay indoors as much as possible and be prepared for possible secondary power outages," Dunbrack said as the storm system continued to move through the area Tuesday.