CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A blizzard warning is in effect for 10 West Virginia counties until Wednesday and state residents are being told to prepare for power outages as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast.
The storm will make landfall in New Jersey late tonight but is already causing problems for West Virginia. Heavy rains and snow were forecast for the remainder of the week for the Mountain State, according to the National Weather Service.
"It's all part of the same thing," said Jonathan Wolfe, a meteorologist at the Charleston office and the agency's emergency response specialist. "It's a complicated system.
"It's going to come ashore in New Jersey and hang out in Pennsylvania for most of the week, but that's going to pull some cold air down from the northwest and cause some issues here."
The cold will wrap around the storm, sending snow and rain into West Virginia.
The blizzard warning is in effect from noon today through Wednesday afternoon for McDowell, Wyoming, Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Webster, Randolph, Pocahontas, Tucker and Preston counties.
Mercer, Summers, Monroe and Greenbrier counties were on a winter storm warning while the Eastern and Northern Panhandles were on a high wind warning and winter storm watch.
Lower elevations could see a few inches, but Wolfe said most of the snow will fall in elevations of 2,000 feet and higher.
Locales above 3,000 feet could expect between 1 and 2 feet of snow. Snowshoe in Pocahontas County could see 2 feet of snow. Areas below 2,000 feet could see 1 to 6 inches.
Local soil temperatures remain in the 60-degree range, making it difficult for snow to stick, Wolfe said.
Wind gusts up to 60 mph also are expected in higher elevations. Wolfe said lower areas would see 45 mph gusts.
Heavy rains were expected for most of today and into tomorrow for the western portion of the state. Wolfe said two inches of rain was forecast for "most places" though those in the Eastern Panhandle might see more.
"There's a lot of complicated things going on," Wolfe said. "This is a widespread storm and it will last quite a while. It will be raining most of the week."
Wolfe advised residents to prepare for power outages.
Appalachian Power crews already have called in more than 350 workers in preparation for the storm, according to a statement issued Sunday evening. Appalachian Power has more than one million customers in West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia.
The company began preparing for the storm Friday, aware of the potential power outages the hurricane could cause. The most serious threat was the heavy wet snow forecast for the high mountains, West Virginia's southern coalfields and southwest Virginia, the release said.
"This weather combination will likely cause a major power outage event for us and we are preparing by staging crews in various areas in West Virginia and Virginia," Phil Wright, vice president of distribution operations, said in the release.
"At the same time, we encourage customers to have a plan in place for coping with extended, storm related power outages."
First Energy, the parent company of MonPower and Potomac Edison, issued a statement Sunday urging customers to be prepared for outages. The company also provides service for New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which face the brunt of the hurricane.