TERRA ALTA, W.Va. — Residents of Preston County may not be able to expect relief from the harsh cold that has gripped the area until the middle of next week.

“It actually showed eleven [below] at one point [today],” Preston County Commissioner Dave Price said. “Now I think we have a heat wave going on. The sun is shining, and it’s kind of balmy. It’s up to zero.”

Temperatures Thursday morning were below zero in parts of Preston County, particularly in the higher elevations.

“The thing that was good about this one this morning is that it was very calm,” Price said. “No wind to speak of.”

That could change after the New Year, though. National Weather Service Meteorologist John Darnley said Preston County might get a brief respite from the bitter cold by the middle of next week, but could see these same frigid temperatures mix with wind during the first full weekend of January.

“If you’re exposure is anywhere close to 30 minutes, you could experience frost bite and hypothermia to exposed skin,” Darnley said

Price said he doesn’t remember temperatures dropping this quickly in December, but said he’s seen temperatures even colder in Preston County during mid-winter.

“Those were several winters ago,” he said. “Now, we’ve had some winters with some bad snow storms and that kind of thing, but I remember back in the late 70’s when it would get to be below zero and the high for the day might be zero. We had snow and wind, and it was pretty miserable.”

Usually, Price said, this is the type of weather to expect in Preston County in January and February.

“We’re always emphasizing to be ready for three or four days of issues, of problems, of no power, or extreme cold or something,” he said. “Maybe this is a wake-up call to get ready for the rest of the winter with some water and food and things like that we can pack away. Some kind of a heat source that will work — a generator maybe.”

Darnley said, relatively speaking, the normal high in neighboring Morgantown is about 40 this time of year. On Thursday, the high was about 25 degrees below average.

“Put that into perspective of what we’re currently having,” he said. “It definitely is an anomalous temperature when you are 20 to 30 degrees below normal.”

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