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Power knocked out for thousands in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Unusually strong winds, rain and lightening pelted the region early Sunday morning after a record-setting warm day.

A little more than 2,000 people were without power in Southern West Virginia Sunday morning after the storm passed through.

Strong gusts blew down trees and caused outages. Joe Merchant, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Charleston, said the storm went through Huntington at 1:30 a.m. Sunday and hit the Charleston area about an hour later.

An airport in Athens, Ohio, recorded gusts up to 64 mph and in Point Pleasant winds reached speeds of 51 mph. Winds in Parkersburg were recorded at 60 mph. A 48 mph gust was recorded at Yeager Airport in Charleston.

"We have a number of reports in Kanawha County around 2 a.m. of damaging winds," Merchant said. "Someone called in and reported a 10-foot by 10-foot section of shingles were ripped off of a roof."

He said a number of trees were knocked down in Putnam County. Trees also took down a few power lines in St. Albans.

Some homes in the Sissonville area had damaged roofs, including some homes that lost sections of shingles.

"That was the most part as far as damage goes," Merchant said. "Trees falling down around the area."

Liz Halstead of St. Albans said an outdoor trampoline at her home was blown from her yard, scratched her son's truck, crossed the road and was found hanging from a phone line.

"Thank goodness we didn't lose power," she said in an online message to the Daily Mail.

Belle resident Jessica Fidler lost a portion of her roof, which she said caused a ceiling leak in her daughter's bedroom.

"We are praying the ceiling doesn't fall in," she said.

The number of Appalachian Power customers without electricity fell steadily throughout the day Sunday as crews worked to restore service. More than 2,000 Appalachian Power customers were without power Sunday morning but those numbers steadily dropped as the day went on. By Sunday evening the company's website showed 266 without power -- 145 in Kanawha County and 121 in Fayette County. 

The storm was book-ended by two days that set heat records.

Many took advantage of the warm weather and spent time outside Saturday before the rain blew in.

The high in Charleston Saturday was 75 degrees, just a shade warmer than the previous record of 74 degrees set Dec. 21, 1990. The temperature dipped only slightly Sunday when the high reached 74 degrees. The previous Dec. 22 record was set in 1941.

The high temperature in Huntington on Saturday was also 75, breaking the record of 72 degrees set in 1990. Sunday's high was 71 degrees, which was slightly warmer than the former record high of 68 degrees set in 1998.

In Elkins, temperatures reached 74 degrees Saturday, breaking the 1990 record of 69 degrees. Sunday temperatures hit 71 degrees, beating the 67 degree record high set in 1990.

Beckley's warm winter records from 1949 were edged out Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday the high temperature was 67 degrees, just above 65 degrees, the record for 1949. Sunday temperatures in Beckley hit a high of 68 degrees. The record high for Dec. 22 was set in 1949 when the high reached 66 degrees.

Parkersburg didn't break any winter warmth records Saturday, but the 70 degree-high temperature on Sunday tied with the high temperature in 1967.

Merchant said the warm temperatures were the result of southerly winds coming ahead of a cold front. He said the warmer air is capable of holding more moisture and made the day a little more humid than those would expect for this time of year. He said it wasn't unusual for the area to see warm air ahead of a cold front.

"It was an unusually warm patter but by no means will it persist," Merchant said. "It doesn't necessarily mean the whole winter will be warm."

In fact, snow flurries were in the forecast for tomorrow, but those looking for a white Christmas are out of luck. Merchant said the area might see some snow Christmas Eve but the accumulation would be less than an inch and would likely be gone by Christmas morning.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4850.


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