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Hurricane Sandy to hit W.Va. on Sunday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Starting Sunday night, the remnants of Hurricane Sandy are expected to storm into West Virginia and interact with a stalling cold front, bringing rain and gusty winds to the state's lowlands and eight to 10 inches of snow to portions of the Northeastern mountains.

The National Weather Service's Charleston Forecast Office issued a winter storm watch for Webster, Pocahontas and Randolph counties for Sunday night through Tuesday night, calling for steady accumulations of wet, heavy snow accompanied by strong, gusty winds. The snowfall is expected to start late Sunday, with the heaviest accumulations taking place Monday through Tuesday.

The mountain snowfall is expected to be accompanied by "some pretty brisk northwest winds -- 20- to 30-miles-an-hour, with 40- to 45-mile-an-hour gusts across the higher ridges," said NWS forecaster Dave Marsalek. "In the lowlands, it will be a rain and snow mix."

Marsalek said little, if any snow accumulation is expected in the Charleston area and other locations in Southwestern West Virginia. "There will be a few flakes coming down, but the ground temperature is still over 60 degrees, although that will come down a little in the next couple of days."

Daytime temperatures should drop into the low 40s and high 30s in the Kanawha Valley when Hurricane Sandy's remnants blow into the area, but nighttime temperatures are expected to stay just above the freezing point.

Rain is expected to fall across much of the state Saturday and Sunday, and continue in the lowlands at least through Tuesday.

"In the low areas, it will be wet and raw, with 20- to 30-mile-per-hour wind gusts," Marsalek said. "It's been pretty dry since the end of July, so there's still a lot of room in our creeks and streams" to handle runoff, he said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday urged state residents to prepare for the possibility of severe weather by making sure they have supplies of flashlights, batteries, bottled water, nonperishable foods, medications and battery-operated radios.

"I will continue to monitor this storm very closely, and I will stay in close contact with our Office of Emergency Management Services to make sure our state is prepared, should we experience hazardous conditions," he said.

"It's not clear whether the storm will have enough impact in our area to produce power outages, but we're prepared to either bring repair crews in, or send them out, depending on where it hits and how bad it is," said Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye.

"We've asked our parent company, American Electric Power, to reserve crews to make sure they're available if our area is impacted," Moye said. "We also have more than 100 of our workers who will be packed and ready to move out this weekend to go to power outages outside the area if we're not impacted. We're all going to be monitoring the weather throughout the weekend."

Yeager Airport marketing director Brian Belcher said passengers planning to travel to cities in Hurricane Sandy's path early next week should check with their airlines to see about possible canceled flights or alternative routings.

"The airlines will generally put out notices saying they will make changes at no additional charge for travel during these kinds of conditions," Belcher said.

Belcher said Yeager Airport had received queries Friday about possibly moving U.S. Navy and Marine Corps airplanes and helicopters from bases on the Southeast Coast to Charleston to wait out the storm.

"We can accommodate them if they decide to come," Belcher said. "We just have to make parking arrangements for them."

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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