Heaviest snowfall predicted for Saturday afternoon
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A winter storm gave many West Virginia school children an early start to the weekend, but the worst may be yet to come.
Up to 8 inches of snow and wind gusts up to 35 mph were forecast in the central and southern mountain counties before moving out of the state Friday afternoon. The northern mountains and some lower elevations were expected to receive up to 6 inches.
Winter storm warnings were posted in 17 counties. Schools were canceled Friday in at least 40 counties.
Appalachian Power reported that nearly 5,200 customers were without power Friday, most of them in Cabell and Wayne counties.
The National Weather Service in Charleston predicts a weekend storm will drop the heaviest amounts of snow between the hours of 3 and 9 p.m. Saturday.
Steady accumulating snow will spread over the region Saturday morning and continue through the night. After a brief lull late Saturday, intermittent snow showers will arrive on Sunday and continue through the evening, especially in mountainous counties.
The highest snowfall totals - 8 inches or more Saturday through Sunday night - will occur in the mountains, with lesser totals to the west, according to the NWS report.
The snow is predicted to be dry and powdery, and travel conditions will likely be affected only on untreated roads. Visibility may be reduced to less than .5 a mile during times during the day Saturday and during some of the heavier snow showers on Sunday, especially in the mountains.
The Charleston and Huntington areas are predicted to see accumulation between 3 and 6 inches between 7 a.m. Saturday and 1 a.m. Monday, while Beckley is expected to receive 6 to 10 inches of snow.
As of Friday afternoon, travel in Kanawha County was mostly affected by high water in areas such as Dry Branch Road and Rush Creek.
The AAA in West Virginia says it has "all hands on deck" going into the weekend, as employees expect an increased number of calls for assistance.
AAA reminds drivers to properly clear snow from their vehicles before driving, and to remember not to use cruise control on any slippery surface.
In case of an emergency, AAA recommends drivers have a fully charged cellphone and car charger, flashlight, small shovel and materials to create traction, such as cat litter, when traveling. Drivers should also consider stocking their vehicles with blankets, gloves, hats, food, bottled water and any needed medication.