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Severe storms predicted for W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia might be in for some severe storms today and into Thursday. 

However, while some meteorologists are stirring up worries online about a possible derecho, others are saying the worst of the weather probably will miss the Kanawha Valley.

A derecho, as you might recall from last summer, occurs when cool air created by the formation of a line of thunderstorms clashes with a front of warm, dry air.

That collision of warm and cool creates strong, straight-line winds that can damage buildings and topple trees and power lines.

That's exactly what happened last June, when thousands of state residents were without power for days.

Tom Axford, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Charleston, said West Virginia probably will not see that kind of storm this week.

"We're not throwing around the d-word," he said.

Axford said West Virginia sees severe storms every year around this time, as warm air masses coming from the south and west meet cooler air fronts flowing from the north.

The state could see strong thunderstorms today and into Thursday, but Axford said people should not expect anything like last year's derecho.

"The highest risk for severe weather, damaging winds, hail, would be a little further to the north," he said, indicating Ohio and the Great Lakes region could get walloped.

Meteorologists at Accuweather and the Weather Channel on Monday began reporting a possible derecho for West Virginia this week, and the reports quickly gained traction on social media sites.

Axford considers that doubtful. And if it does occur, it will not be as powerful as last year.

"Last year, the day of, I believe Charleston was over 100 degrees. It's that intermingling of hot air and cooler air, and last year we had such a stark change," he said. "(This year,) it's not that strong of a mix of hot and cold air.

"We're not expecting anything like what everybody's got fresh in their minds from last year. It's not going to be a sequel."

Local and state authorities were already gathered in the Northern Panhandle to work out strategies for emergency situations. The authorities, including state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato, were gathered at the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino Racetrack.

One of the big topics was expected to be extreme weather -- especially last summer's derecho and Hurricane Sandy.

"They had a lot of impact across the state in this past year, so those will be the two main topics right there," Tom Hart, director of the Marshall County Office of Emergency Management, told WTOV.

Last year's power outages led to local fuel shortages as worried drivers filled their tanks and homeowners their portable generators.

Jan Vineyard, executive director of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, said each storm is a learning experience for gas stations and convenience stores.

She said stations typically keep their fuel inventories low since costs are high and fluctuate wildly but now try to stock up when severe weather is on its way.

Vineyard said some stations also have purchased backup generators to keep the lights on, the freezers running and the gas pumps pumping.

Little General Stores, which have locations throughout the state, have purchased several portable generators the company can move to stores affected by outages.

"That's kind of the nature of our business. We're so tied to fuel supply and other things .<\!p>.<\!p>. that's why they're called convenient stores. We have to be convenient," Vineyard said.

Last year's storms also caused ice shortages as local ice plants went offline after power outages and stores quickly sold out of on-hand supplies.

Brian Penturff, manager of Eastern Ice in Beckley, said there is little his company can do to be ready for another, similar storm.

"To get a generator big enough to run the ice plant -- I could build another ice plant for that," he said.

Although Eastern Ice was without electricity for only 24 hours, Penturff said it took the company two and a half months to catch up with customer demand.

"We were running at full capacity and had all of our customers completely full. Within 24 hours, we didn't have a customer with ice," he said. "It was an absolute perfect storm."

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or Follow him at

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