The latest snowstorm moving through West Virginia ......

The Free Press WV

The latest snowstorm moving through West Virginia Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning will be characterized by heavier bands of snow, according to National Weather Meteorologist Maura Casey.

“There’s a big moisture plume coming down from Lake Michigan and what that usually amounts to is that you’ll get these corridors that set up and you’ll have locally higher amounts (of snow),” Casey said.

The forecast is calling for a coating to an inch or two in the state’s western lowlands. The least amounts will likely be along the Ohio River. Accumulation amounts are expected to increase to the east, Casey said.

“Once you get up into the mountainous region from Wyoming County up through the Morgantown area you’ll get the 1-3, 2-4 inch variety. Once you get into the mountains you’ll see those higher snowfall amounts,” she said. “In the Randolph, Tucker, Pendleton, Pocahontas county areas we’re looking at 6-7 inches at your highest elevations.”

Casey said even if you’re in an area where the accumulation is light there could be travel problems.

“The accumulations may be on the light side given we have warm ground temperatures but it still creates some hazardous driving conditions,” she said. “You’re going to have reduced visibility with heavier squalls.”

The National Weather Service also has advisories posted in connection with cold temperatures. Most areas will see lows in the middle teens with wind by Wednesday morning.

Greenbrier County closed schools Tuesday while Fayette and Raleigh counties decided to close a few hours early.

First Snow of Season in WV: This Weekend

The Free Press WV

Social media on Friday afternoon lit up with wintry scenes to the south and West Virginia is next with some snow scheduled to cover parts of the state Saturday.

Places like Charlotte, North Carolina saw several inches of snow Friday along with other southeastern communities. However, the snowfall expected in West Virginia this weekend will come from an entirely different system, according to Meteorologist John Sikora at the National Weather Service in Charleston.

“A cold from will pass through Saturday afternoon,” Sikora said. “Everybody can look for an inch or so in the low country, but the mountains has a better chance with two to four inches in the up-slope areas as the front pushes through.”

The forecast would be the first snow of the season in West Virginia and comes at the end of nearly a month of unseasonably warm and dry weather.

“It’s going to stay with us,” said Sikora. “We’ll have a little bit of a break on Sunday, maybe a little warm up on Sunday, but we have another system coming in on Tuesday that might give us some pretty good snows.”


The Free Press WV

►  WV remembers Superstorm Sandy five years later

Five years ago this week, residents of much of West Virginia were digging out from Superstorm Sandy.

“Just a beyond normal winter storm obviously,” said Nicholas County OES Director Shawn Wolford, who worked in Greenbrier County at the time. “You might expect something like that later in the season, but you’re not really planning and preparing for the end of October for that much snow and that heavy snow.”

Sandy first moved into West Virginia during the weekend of October 27, 2012.

By October 30, the storm was taking down thousands of trees and power lines while putting down several feet of heavy, wet snow in some areas as moisture from the hurricane system met colder temperatures to create blizzard conditions.

In some of the central Mountain State counties, more than 80 percent of residents did not have power.

“We had to open up temporary warming stations for people that maybe didn’t have heat or power,” Wolford said. “We had some generator problems at our tower sites, so we had to get up on top of the mountain in three and a half foot of snow.”

In some parts of West Virginia, residents went two weeks without power. In central West Virginia, some counties saw 80 percent or more of their residents At times, assistance for trapped people was being provided via air.

Four deaths were attributed to the storm either directly or indirectly, according to state records.

Initially, a Federal Disaster Declaration for public assistance was issued for 18 counties: Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, Lewis, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur, Webster and Wyoming.

Sandy hit West Virginia the same year as the Derecho.

“Derecho was in the summer and then of course Sandy hit in the fall, so we had two whammies back-to-back almost,” Wolford said.

Though Sandy hit West Virginia as a snowstorm, early on October 29, 2012 the storm made landfall northeast of Atlantic City, N.J. as a post-tropical cyclone which packed hurricane-force winds.

Major to record storm surge was reported along the entire New Jersey coast which hit at the time of astronomical high tide.

Parts of New York City were flooded.


The Free Press WV

►  5 years after Superstorm Sandy, the lessons haven’t sunk in

Five years after Superstorm Sandy was supposed to have taught the U.S. a lesson about the dangers of living along the coast, disaster planning experts say there is no place in America truly prepared for climate change and the tempests it could bring.

That is true even in New York and New Jersey, where cities and towns got slammed by deadly floodwaters that rose out of the Atlantic on the evening of October 29, 2012.

While billions have been spent to repair the damage, protecting vulnerable infrastructure, people and property across the nation from the more extreme weather that climate change could bring is going to require investment on a staggering scale, easily costing hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions.

Some coastal protection projects are moving forward, but the most ambitious ideas spurred by Sandy’s onslaught are still in the design stage, with questions about whether they will ever be built.

Some wonder whether the nation has the will to undertake such ventures, even after this past season brought more catastrophic storms, including Hurricane Harvey, which swamped Houston, and Hurricane Maria, which laid waste to Puerto Rico’s electrical grid.

“It felt after Sandy as if we might have finally had our wake-up call. We’d start to take these things seriously,” said Eric Klinenberg, director of the Institute for Public Knowledge, a think tank at New York University. “We’d make the kind of investment in climate security that we made in homeland security after September 11. But of course nothing of the sort has happened.”

Some experts worry also that the ascendance of a climate-change skeptic to the White House may put the brakes on coastal protection efforts. In August, Donald Trump rescinded President Barack Obama’s post-Sandy order requiring future sea level rise to be factored into federally funded infrastructure projects.

“Since the new administration is not using the CC word, the climate change word, it’s very hard to instill this forward-looking kind of attitude where you have to take into account sea level rise and how the flood zones expand,” says Klaus Jacob, a Columbia University scientist specializing in climate change adaptation.

And yet, some planners still hope that Sandy created momentum for projects that could serve as national models.



After Sandy, which was blamed for at least 182 deaths in the U.S. and Caribbean and more than $71 billion in damage in this country alone, a government-funded competition called Rebuild by Design produced audacious ideas for defending the coast.

One concept, dubbed The Big U, would create 10 miles (16 kilometers) of floodwalls, berms and gates around lower Manhattan. Other ideas include erecting breakwaters around Staten Island that would double as oyster beds, and reconfiguring the Meadowlands, the polluted wetlands of urban New Jersey, with berms and marshes.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development put up $1 billion to get those projects started, but construction hasn’t begun on any of them.

Amy Chester, Rebuild By Design’s executive director, said it will take years to complete all the planning and gain government approvals and community support. And it’s not clear how much these projects will ultimately cost.



LaTrenda Ross gets teary-eyed recalling the days after Sandy flooded the streets of Hoboken, New Jersey, a city of 50,000 people across the Hudson River from Manhattan that has been her home for 40 years.

“To not be able to go to work, to sit there in the dark, no elevators, no way out, was devastating,” she said. If something isn’t done to prevent a repeat, “there won’t even be a city of Hoboken. We might as well pack up and move now.”

New Jersey does, in fact, have a plan. Over the summer it hired an engineering firm to carry out one of the Rebuild by Design concepts: an anti-flood system for Hoboken. The $230 million project, funded by HUD, involves a series of floodwalls, pumping stations and water retention tanks.

Construction is due to start in 2019 and take at least three years.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said the cost is worth it. Eighty percent of the city flooded during Sandy, she said, causing as much as $1 billion in damage. Buildings were ruined. Three of the city’s four fire stations flooded. A vital commuter train station was knocked out for months.

Laura Baird, an engineer who helped develop the plan, said had the system been in place when Sandy hit, 85 percent of the city would have been protected.



While the grandest ideas about post-Sandy protections are still far from reality, there has been progress .

Communities on the New Jersey shore built sand dunes to hold back surf, or fortified existing ones. Power companies and New York’s subway system have put flood protections around key infrastructure. Hospitals moved electrical equipment out of basements.

The Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to begin construction in 2019 on a 5-mile-long (8-kilometer-long), 20-foot-high (6-meter-high) seawall and promenade that would run along New York’s Staten Island in front of the neighborhoods hit hardest by Sandy. The project, which is still being designed, has an estimated price tag of $600 million and is scheduled for completion by 2022.

Michael Cappannari, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the administration is committed to helping communities recognize the risk and defend against flooding. He cited several federally funded projects underway, including construction of boardwalks with seawalls hidden beneath them and flood-proofing of sewage treatment systems.

It’s not enough, said Jacob, the Columbia scientist.

“It’s on a pace that’s dictated by the funds that are available, politically made available,” he said. “And if that snail’s pace continues, there’s a good chance that we may have another severe storm in town or in the region that will outpace that slow pace of improving the systems.”

Politicians locally and in Congress appear reluctant to get behind enormously expensive and sometimes divisive projects to deal with a threat that often feels hypothetical.

In Hoboken, for example, one proposal for a floodwall that would have protected more of the city was rejected because it would have blocked river views. Cities throughout the country have been reluctant to curtail building on the waterfront, because those spots are in such great demand from homebuyers.

In New York City, FEMA redrew the flood maps after Sandy, nearly doubling to 71,500 the number of buildings deemed to be in high-risk zones. The city objected for fear that would raise flood insurance rates and stifle waterfront development, and last year FEMA agreed to roll the flood zones back.

Bill Golden, president of the National Institute for Coastal and Harbor Infrastructure, said worrying about spending too much is shortsighted, and he blames the inaction on “a misunderstanding of the new reality that we face.”

A study released Monday by an international team of scientists predicted that between 2030 and 2045, New York City could experience storm surges of over 7.4 feet (2.25 meters) every five years, primarily because of sea level rise. That’s up from every 25 years in recent decades.



After Sandy, New York and New Jersey bought and emptied 1,250 homes in areas it deemed too difficult to protect from floods.

Patty Snyder, whose 53-year-old brother drowned when Sandy struck, was among the Staten Islanders who took a buyout. “I knew I was never going back, because I felt the city, state and federal governments never were going to do what needed to be done to stop future flooding,” she said.

But most people in the wrecked communities did return, whether because they were skeptical of the risk, confident about the planned Staten Island seawall, or simply unwilling to say goodbye to their homes.

Some homes were rebuilt on elevated foundations or pilings. Others were restored to the way they were before Sandy, leaving them just as vulnerable.

“I really don’t think it will happen again,” said Fred Steinfeld, a Staten Island resident whose basement filled with water during Sandy. “I just think that storms like that don’t happen that often.”

Dexter Dugan, whose Staten Island home got 9 feet of water, took steps to make it more storm-resistant, including putting heating and electrical systems on the second floor.

“You live near the water, it’s going to flood,” he said.


The Free Press WV

►  Science Says: Jack Frost nipping at your nose ever later

Winter is coming ... later. And it’s leaving ever earlier.

Across the United States, the year’s first freeze has been arriving further and further into the calendar, according to more than a century of measurements from weather stations nationwide.

Scientists say it is yet another sign of the changing climate, and that it has good and bad consequences for the nation. There could be more fruits and vegetables — and also more allergies and pests.

The Free Press WV

“I’m happy about it,” said Karen Duncan of Streator, Illinois. Her flowers are in bloom because she’s had no frost this year yet, just as she had none last year at this time either. On the other hand, she said just last week it was too hot and buggy to go out — in late October, near Chicago.

The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895 compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

To look for nationwide trends, Kunkel compared the first freeze from each of the 700 stations to the station’s average for the 20th Century. Some parts of the country experience earlier or later freezes every year, but on average freezes are coming later.

The average first freeze over the last 10 years, from 2007 to 2016, is a week later than the average from 1971 to 1980, which is before Kunkel said the trend became noticeable.

This year, about 40 percent of the Lower 48 states have had a freeze as of October 23, compared to 65 percent in a normal year, according to Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private service Weather Underground.

Duncan’s flowers should be dead by now. According to data from the weather station near her in Ottawa, Illinois, the average first freeze for the 20th century was October 15. The normal from 1981 to 2010 based on NOAA computer simulations was October 19. Since 2010, the average first freeze is on October 26. Last year, the first freeze in Ottawa came on November 12.

Last year was “way off the charts” nationwide, Kunkel said. The average first freeze was two weeks later than the 20th century average, and the last frost of spring was nine days earlier than normal.

Overall the United States freeze season of 2016 was more than a month shorter than the freeze season of 1916. It was most extreme in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon’s freeze season was 61 days — two months — shorter than normal.

Global warming has helped push the first frosts later, Kunkel and other scientists said. Also at play, though, are natural short-term changes in air circulation patterns — but they too may be influenced by man-made climate change, they said.

This shrinking freeze season is what climate scientists have long predicted, said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado.

A shorter freeze season means a longer growing season and less money spent on heat. But it also hurts some plants that require a certain amount of chill, such as Georgia peaches, said Theresa Crimmins, a University of Arizona ecologist. Crimmins is assistant director of the National Phenology Network . Phenology is the study of the seasons and how plants and animals adapt to timing changes.

Pests that attack trees and spread disease aren’t being killed off as early as they normally would be, Crimmins said.

In New England, many trees aren’t changing colors as vibrantly as they normally do or used to because some take cues for when to turn from temperature, said Boston University biology professor Richard Primack.

Clusters of late-emerging monarch butterflies are being found far further north than normal for this time of year, and are unlikely to survive their migration to Mexico.

Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said natural variability, especially an El Nino, made last year exceptional for an early freeze, but “it represents the kind of conditions that will be more routine in a decade or two” because of man-made climate change.

“The long-term consequences are really negative,” said Primack, because shorter winters and hotter temperatures are also expected to lead to rising seas that cause worse flooding during heavy storms.

In suburban Boston, Primack and his wife are still eating lettuce, tomatoes and green beans from their garden. And they are getting fresh figs off their backyard tree almost daily.

“These fig trees should be asleep,” Primack said.

Nate Will Deliver A Soaking Rain in West Virginia

The Free Press WV

West Virginia is about two weeks into a significant dry spell, but a hurricane now in the Gulf of Mexico will change that early next week.

“There’s been little rain across the state over the past two weeks,” said Simone Lewis at the National Weather Service in Charleston. “The most precipitation we have seen has generally been across the northern panhandle.”

A massive high pressure system has been parked over the state for those two weeks and it’s produced not only dry conditions, but above normal temperatures. But Hurricane Nate is expected to hit the Gulf Coast on Saturday as a Category 1 storm. As it moves inland, it will bring West Virginia a much needed soaking.

“Remnants of Nate are going to move onshore into the southern gulf states over the weekend and it will move into West Virginia in the Sunday to Monday time frame,” Lewis explained. “That’s going to bring us finally some moisture. We’re looking at a pretty good soaking rain Sunday night into Monday. We’re looking at a good two to four inches the state could see out of it.”

The rainfall is expected to end on Monday evening and return to dry conditions by Tuesday. Lewis said it’s the kind of rain West Virginia needs without too many concerns.

“For the most part it should just be a slow, soaking rain,” she said. “There may be a few periods of gusty winds at times, but nothing too significant to worry about.”

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