Area wind advisory, outages
Temperatures plummeted more than 40 degrees Wednesday as a winter weather system pushed its way through the area.
The National Weather Service in Charleston issued a wind advisory throughout the area from noon Wednesday through midnight Thursday.
Wind gusts of more than 40 mph were reported as spring-like weather fell to snow showers.
Power outages were reported across the area as a storm moved in, packing wind gusts of 40 mph or stronger.
According to Appalachian Power's online outage map, the most significant outages were in Wayne, Fayette and Nicholas counties.
About 2,957 customers in Wayne County were without power. In Fayette County, 1,922 customers were without power, and 2,177 were without power in Nicholas County.
That's 81.4 percent of Appalachian Power's customers in Nicholas County.
Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said issues with the transmission lines and substations were the problem in Wayne, Fayette and Nicholas counties.
An issue at a substation cut service to 3,500 customers in Wayne County earlier Wednesday. A transmission line was the root of the problem in Fayette and Nicholas counties.
There are also reported outages in Cabell, Mason, Kanawha, Fayette, Boone and Wyoming counties. There were 815 customers without power as of Wednesday evening.
FirstEnergy said about 1,800 customers had no service, including more than 1,000 customers in Roane County. Across West Virginia, more than 24,000 customers were in the dark.
The outages forced some schools to close early.
Moye said the outages started at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
"The problem we're having today is wind," he said.
He said that there are hundreds of places crews have to go to make repairs after a damaging storm.
"So far today, though, we have a small number of outages affecting a large number of customers," Moye said. "In fact, close to 90 percent of our current outage total is due to fewer than 20 problems.
"Although some outages may take longer to repair, we should have most of the customers affected by this storm back in service by tonight."
Simone Lewis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said an area of low pressure over eastern Kentucky would make its way into West Virginia throughout the day Wednesday.
"Later this afternoon and this evening, a cold front will move from west to east across the area and that will help usher in much colder temperatures and rather gusty winds," Lewis said Wednesday. "Later on tonight behind that cold front, the air is going to get much colder. In fact, low temperatures tonight will dip into the teens for much of the area."
Lewis said the cold front would pass Huntington around noon Wednesday, Charleston around 2 p.m., and the mountains of the eastern counties by 7 p.m.
When the cold front passes, Lewis said temperatures would quickly fall, winds would pick up and rain, which is expected throughout the day, would turn to snow.
"As an example, from 2 p.m. today in Charleston, we're predicting temperatures in the mid 50s," Lewis said Wednesday. "By 8 p.m., we're predicting temperatures in the upper 20s or lower 30s. By morning, we're looking for a good 40-degree drop from what we're seeing this afternoon."
Lewis said less than an inch of snow accumulation was expected, with up to 4 inches possible in the eastern mountains. Lows Wednesday night were forecast to fall to 19 degrees.
The cold spell will be short-lived, though.
Highs today are forecast to reach 33 degrees, with lows getting down to 21 degrees tonight. Highs on Friday will reach a more seasonable 57 degrees.
An up-to-date map of outages can be found at www.aepcustomer.com/outagemap/main.aspx?region=apco.
The National Weather Service issued an advisory for strong wind gusts in most of the state, including a high wind warning in some southeastern counties through this morning.