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Heavy snow to replace rain in some counties

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Kanawha Valley could get a reprieve from longstanding rain today, but some West Virginia counties could be buried by heavy snowfall.

Appalachian Power said its crews were mobilizing for possible outages as rain changes to snow in eastern West Virginia counties.

Heavy, wet snow has the potential to cause significant damage to electrical facilities, including the ability to bring down power lines and poles, stated Phil Wright, vice president of distribution operations for Appalachian Power.

"This morning's weather forecast changed quickly from a threat of ongoing rain to snow, causing us to immediately prepare for outages should they occur," Wright said Wednesday.

In advance of the storm, all Appalachian Power contract line workers, damage assessors and tree crews are ready to respond, the company stated in a news release.

Beyond that, additional resources located outside the Appalachian service area are being secured and will be staged in the hardest-hit areas, according to the company.

People living in Fayette and Raleigh counties likely will see a wintry mix of rain and snow in the morning change to heavier snowfall as today progresses, said Tim Axford, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"We're expecting the heaviest snowfall to fall between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.," Axford said.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for both Raleigh and Fayette counties from 5 a.m. today until 1 a.m. Friday.

Residents in the eastern parts of Raleigh and Fayette can expect to see 5 to 8 inches of snow accumulation. More snowfall can be expected in the higher elevations.

Those living in the western portions of the counties can expect to see 1 to 3 inches, Axford said.

A winter weather advisory also has been issued for Boone, Logan, Mingo and Pocahontas counties from 5 a.m. today until 1 a.m. Friday. The bulk of the snow in these counties is expected to fall between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. today.

Meteorologists are expecting 2 to 4 inches of snow to fall in the areas.  

Kanawha residents should avoid the worst of the weather with a little rain falling this morning and changing to "a few flakes of snow" in the afternoon, Axford said.

Heavy rain and rising water throughout the region Tuesday night and Wednesday morning kept first responders busy dealing with flooded roads.

A crushed culvert under Midnight Drive in the Winifrede area of Kanawha County near Chesapeake caused water to back up into the basements of a few homes, said Chuck Grishaber, Kanawha County floodplain manager.

"The water got into a few crawl spaces under some houses and into one garage," Grishaber said. "But the water hasn't gotten into any living spaces."

State Department of Highways workers removed the culvert and were busy repairing the road Wednesday, he said. He expected the repairs to be complete by evening.

Residents living in the few homes across the culvert were unable to leave the area until the road was repaired, he said.

Grishaber was unsure what damaged the culvert.

Rising water in some areas was caused by debris remaining from the June derecho and Superstorm Sandy, he said. Brush and debris from the two storms remain in streams and creek beds.

The rising waters washed the debris into culverts, clogging them. This in turn caused the water to rise on the upstream sides of the culverts and creep onto roads, he said.

Water blocked by a clogged culvert also crossed a small road in the Mountaineer Heights subdivision in the Pinch area Wednesday morning, Grishaber said. The Department of Highways cleared the debris from the culvert and the roadway was soon opened.

Water also crossed a portion of W.Va. 61 near Marmet because of a blocked culvert. However, the road was not totally blocked.

High water from the Coal River blocked a portion of Ferrell Road near Tornado, according to a press release from Kanawha County's Office of Emergency Management.

First responders also dealt with issues in Charleston, said Gary Taylor, director of public works. A malfunctioning pump at the Court Street underpass at the intersection with Smith Street caused water to rise in the low spot.

However, the pump was fixed quickly and the street was reopened about 11:30 a.m., he said.

Water also rose in the South Park underpass in Kanawha City near the McDonalds along MacCorkle Avenue, Taylor said.

"We had to shut that underpass down until the water receded," he said.

Clogged drains caused the majority of water problems in the city, Taylor said.

"We had crews cleaning out all of the inlets," he said. "Once they're clean, the water goes down." 

Water did block Paint Creek Road in the Weirwood area near Pax in Fayette County, said Stephen Cruikshank, deputy director for the Office of Emergency Services.

Members of the Pax Volunteer Fire Department traveled through the area to warn residents that they would not be able to leave the community because the roads were blocked, he said.

"But everyone seems to be OK," he said.

High water caused Fayette County Board of Education officials to cancel some bus runs in the Weirwood/Pax area, said Gary Hough, director of transportation and school services. About 25 children were affected, he said.

Boone County did not experience any significant problems because of high water, said Greg Lay, emergency management director.

However, school officials opted to dismiss students in Sherman Elementary, Junior High and Senior High early as well as children in Whitesville, Ashford and Nellis elementary schools as a precaution, said Steve Bradley, director of transportation for Boone County schools.

No schools were dismissed early in Kanawha County, a secretary with the Board of Education said.

One typical high water problem did not occur in Charleston on Wednesday. The boat dock at Haddad Riverfront Park is usually submerged when the Kanawha River rises, City Engineer Chris Knox said.

However, the new floating dock performed well, he said.

"The old dock would probably have been under about 12 feet of water about now," Knox said about 4 p.m. Wednesday.    

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.


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