Thousands of W.Va, homes lose power
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A third of West Virginians were without power at sundown Tuesday as rain and snow continued to fall and temperatures dropped across the state.
Some will remain without power for days or perhaps a week in parts of the state.
Snow was expected to continue falling overnight. Blizzard warnings were posted for the state's eastern mountains, where the snow was being measured in feet rather than inches. Winds created human-size snowdrifts in places.
State road crews hooked plows to their trucks ahead of the storm but still struggled to keep roads clear as the snow started Monday and kept coming. Downed trees or tipped poles also blocked major roads at nightfall, according to the state Department of Transportation.
"The problem we're having is the crews are getting the roads back open, then a squall will come along and cover the road once again," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said during an evening storm update at the Capitol.
Downed trees also complicated repair crews' efforts to trudge into the woods to fix power lines.
"As you can imagine, nothing ever happens on the side of the road so you can drive up to it," said Jimmy Gianato, the head of the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Officials were concerned about possible flooding.
Antietam and Opequon creeks in the Eastern Panhandle were expected to flood overnight or this morning.
Melting snows later in the week could have further effects, as will a storm system set to move in with more rain. Tomblin said authorities are concerned about flooding along the Ohio River.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending the state 700,000 ready-to-eat meals and 1.4 million liters of water, Tomblin's office said.
The National Guard will take the food and water from the Charleston and Martinsburg airports into the interior of the state, state Adjutant General James Hoyer said.
The state also needs generators, but those are in short supply as millions along the Eastern Seaboard remain without power following Hurricane Sandy's landfall Monday night in New Jersey. The snow in West Virginia tagged along the western edge of that storm.
But West Virginia officials were trying to convince federal officials to make West Virginia a priority because of low temperatures here. Charleston is supposed to see temperatures in the 30s and 40s versus temperatures in the 40s and 50s in Trenton, the capital of New Jersey.
Tomblin planned to make a similar pitch in a Tuesday evening call with federal Homeland Security officials.
The disaster was the second in less than six months for West Virginia and the mid-Atlantic.
The first was the June 29 windstorm that left half the state powerless.
This time there have been fewer outages: 271,000 customers were without power Tuesday evening versus more than 600,000 following the summer storm. This summer, about 750 National Guard members were called up. This time, about 350 may be needed.
But the latest storm may compound earlier problems.
For instance, state food pantries were just restocking their shelves and now there may be another run on food just as winter - a typically desperate time for such charities - approaches.
Tomblin also said the summer storm weakened trees, making it easier for them to be taken down by heavy snow and wind.
The single fatality blamed on the storm in West Virginia came during a fatal car crash near Davis, Hoyer said.