CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Highways crews will be out in force through the weekend as the state braces for another major winter storm.
A strong cold front brought heavy winds and rain through much of the region Thursday.
The National Weather Service forecast rains would begin turning to snow in some areas early Friday morning, with snow continuing through Saturday. Higher elevations are predicted to receive more than a foot of snow in coming days.
Eastern mountain counties -- including Fayette, Nicholas, Pocahontas and Randolph counties -- are under a winter storm warning through 2 p.m. Saturday.
The storm comes at the beginning of the Christmas holiday travel season.
National travel firm AAA was predicting more than 93 million Americans would travel more than 50 miles between Saturday and New Year's Day.
With increased traffic looming, highways officials spent Thursday preparing for the storm.
Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker said road crews planned to be out in full force beginning Thursday night to begin removing snow and treating roads for ice.
"Our maintenance crews will be out there treating and plowing as necessary making sure the interstates and primary roads remain clear," Walker said.
Officials and district managers heard a briefing from meteorologists Thursday morning on the latest conditions. Walker said forecasts predicted the snow would be concentrated in areas along the West Virginia Turnpike and east of Interstate 79.
To prepare, Turnpike officials planned to begin operating in what they call an "enhanced preparedness mode" at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The enhanced mode was created in the aftermath of the December 2009 snowstorm, which left a number drivers stranded on a snow-covered Turnpike for several hours.
Officials have taken several steps in recent years to avoid a repeat of that scenario.
Walker said the enhanced preparedness mode means there will be extra Courtesy Patrols, pre-positioned snow plow trucks and extra maintenance forces out in order to clear winter weather and assist any stranded drivers.