MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Most West Virginians would be warmer in a restaurant’s walk-in freezer than standing outside in much of West Virginia for 2018’s first Friday.
“The current wind chill [at 10 a.m.] is minus 11,” said John Darnley with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh. “So, it’s pretty cold. And it’s going to stay that way at least through today.”
A polar vortex of strong cold air is battering the Mountain State, though keeping it relatively dry as the northeastern United States gets pounded with snow.
“We’re still looking for the cold to be in place from now through Sunday morning,” Darnley said. “Then Sunday afternoon we expect to see some warming up to 32; possibly Monday reaching 40.”
But getting to Sunday seems like an eternity when you consider the subzero wind chill valuations for Friday morning and early Saturday morning during the overnight hours.
“This morning and going into tomorrow morning is the coldest period,” Darnley said. “We’re inside that 24-hour coldest period.”
With temperatures struggling to creep into double digits, even minor winds can cause significant changes in what the air temperature feels like on exposed skin.
“The winds are pretty good though,” Darnley said. “You’ve got some steady winds at nine gusting to 21 [miles per hour]. That’s what’s giving you the really cold wind chill.”
Wind chill advisories and warnings are in effect for a number of areas in state, lifting as early as Friday afternoon or as late as Saturday afternoon. Though Darnley said such weather patterns aren’t in the near-term forecast, there’s no ruling out a return to arctic conditions this winter.
“Once it sets up, it kind of weakens the infrastructure that would prevent it from happening again,” he said.
In the meantime, Darnley said residents should treat this weather event like they would a major snow storm.
“You’ve got to check on the elderly just like you would if there was a 20-inch snow event,” he said.
According to the NWS detailed forecast, wind gusts could get up to 28 miles per hour in the Pittsburgh-coverage area, which includes Morgantown, Fairmont, Follansbee, Moundsville, New Martinsville, Weirton, and Wheeling. Wind chill values continue to fluctuate, but have remained steadily subzero Friday morning.
“Is it the same as a tornado hitting your house? No,” Darnley said. “But it’s just as bad as a widespread snow event or widespread flooding.”