CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A week ahead of the official start of spring, West Virginia was in the path of a winter wallop courtesy of a Nor’easter forming out of two colliding systems Monday that was expected to eventually affect the entire Northeast.
As of mid-day Monday, Winter Storm Warnings from the National Weather Service stretched from Greenbrier County, beginning Monday night, up through all of the Eastern Panhandle counties and continued for all states into Maine.
Along the northeast coasts, there were Blizzard Warnings.
Maura Casey, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, called it a “complicated” storm system with varying amounts of snow possible by Wednesday.
The Eastern Panhandle counties in West Virginia and the eastern mountains — from Preston County south to Greenbrier County — would take the hardest hits, according to Casey.
“We have a pretty high confidence of heavy snowfall there,” she said. “We’re talking, the lower-lying areas and the lower elevations, right around that six to eight inch range, but once you get up on the ridgetops and the higher elevations, we’re looking at right around a foot.”
As of early Monday afternoon, Winter Storm Warnings were scheduled to take effect Monday night in the following counties:
Preston, Tucker, ridges of eastern Monongalia, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hardy, Grant, Mineral, Pendleton, Morgan, Berkeley, Jefferson, Taylor, Upshur, Barbour, southeast Nicholas, Webster, Pocahontas, Randolph
Winter Weather Advisories were posted for counties to the immediate west and south of those counties with varied snow totals in the forecast.
“We’re looking at two to six inches from the Northern Panhandle down into the Beckley area, but those amounts will be sensitive to the system track and how warm we get in the western lowlands,” Casey explained.
“We’re ready,” Carrie Jones, communications specialist for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, reported on Monday morning, admitting “You don’t always know what Mother Nature’s going to do. You see the predictions, but sometimes you just have to wait and see what really happens.”
Crews with the Division of Highways were pre-staging snow removal equipment in parts of eastern West Virginia ahead of the snow’s arrival.
Where possible, Jones said salt brine would be used to pre-treat roads.
“We can put it down before a winter event happens, so when the snow starts to fall, it melts on contact and kind of gives us a jump-start,” she said.
So far this winter, the DOH has used 46 percent of its snow and ice removal — about $33 million of the $61.8 million budgeted, according to Jones. As of March 9, 2016, 193,017 tons of salt had been used. As of last Thursday, 115,229 tons had been used.
Preparations for the storm started days ago in some parts of the Mountain State, Jones said.
In Webster County, Richard Rose, director of Webster County 911 and the office of emergency services, was reminding residents Monday about the importance of preparing themselves and their households for 72 hours, at least, potentially without power.
“We want to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Rose said.
The forecast indicated Webster County’s highest elevations could see 12 inches of snow, with six to eight inches elsewhere.
“That’s going to be pretty significant compared to (the rest of) this winter,” Rose told MetroNews near the end of what has been a mild season.
“Baseball season’s here. Everybody’s had the spring fever. With the temperatures and the weather that we’ve had over the past several weeks, I think it’s going to be a shock to a lot of people and we’re trying to get the message out, ‘Continue to be prepared.'”
Snow totals in West Virginia were not expected to lead the storm.
The highest snow totals, as much as two feet possibly, were predicted near the Interstate 81 Corridor of Pennsylvania along with parts of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Spring officially begins on Monday, March 20.