West Virginia braces for potential flooding, other damage from predicted heavy weekend rains

Governor Justice urges citizens to use common sense, pay attention to local emergency officials
The Free Press WV

With his February 17 State of Emergency declaration still in effect for all 55 counties, Governor Jim Justice is urging his fellow West Virginians to monitor local weather conditions closely this weekend and stay prepared.

The National Weather Service has forecasted multiple rounds of heavy rains through Sunday. With the Ohio River already at higher-than-normal levels, this additional rainfall poses an extreme risk of flooding to all counties along the Ohio. The rest of West Virginia remains at some risk of flooding as well because of saturated ground conditions.

“I know West Virginia can weather this coming storm, if we all remember to use our God-given common sense,” said Governor Justice.  “I encourage everyone to pay attention to their local emergency officials. And please, do not endanger yourselves, your loved ones or our first responders by trying to drive through flood waters!”

The West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) will activate the State Emergency Operations Center at the West Virginia Capitol by 8 p.m. Saturday. DHSEM is already coordinating with county and local emergency managers, and is prepared to field and respond to requests for resources and other assistance. The West Virginia National Guard is pre-positioning resources and personnel, including from its Swift Water Rescue team, and other agencies such as the Division of Highways are doing the same.

Governor Justice declares State of Emergency for all 55 counties

The Free Press WV

Flooding has started in multiple locations, more widespread flooding expected through the weekend

Governor Jim Justice declared a State of Emergency early Saturday for all 55 counties, after heavy rain triggered flooding in multiple locations and was expected to continue throughout the weekend.

The State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is now on enhanced watch status and will continue to monitor the situation.

The EOC will be fully activated if necessary.

The West Virginia National Guard has also been notified and put on stand-by for potential mobilization to assist local and county emergency agencies.

Water continues to push higher

The Free Press WV

Those who live on Wheeling Island know the warning signs. It’s anticipated those warning signs are starting to be quickly triggered as the Ohio River continued coming up on Friday.

“The National Weather Service has upped our crest forecast to about 39.7 feet, that’s almost four feet over flood stage,” said Philip Stahl, Public Information Officer for the Wheeling Police and Fire Department. “That will affect a lot of Wheeling Island, parts of south Wheeling and other parts of the city.”

Authorities are preparing for a long weekend a day after heavy rains pushed smaller streams out of their banks in the rural areas of Ohio County.

“Some of the creeks are pretty swollen and high,” Stahl said. “But they’re not flooding They’re pumping some basements out, but it’s fairly minimal when you look at the whole picture.”

The crest at New Martinsville is expected to be just over 35 feet which could mean flooding in that river town as well from the Ohio.  The warnings cascaded most of Friday down the state extending into the Kanawha Valley and coalfield counties where persistent rain pushed streams up and out of their banks, leaving many roads flooded and impassable.

“The ground is so saturated we’re seeing this long duration rainfall event and it’s a slow rise we’re seeing in streams and creeks,” said Meteorologist Mike Kistner at the National Weather Service in Charleston. “We’re looking at flood warnings across the bulk of the state.”

Although there is a cold front moving into the state which could produce lower temperatures and possibly a wintry mix, there are already problems.

“We’ve had reports of numerous roads closed due to creeks being out of their banks,” said Kistner. “We expect it to continue right up until sunset.”

As usual emergency officials advise never driving through a flooded road and keeping an eye to the local media and weather service outlets to keep advised on changes as the situation warrants.

Forecasters: More flooding possible in Appalachia

The Free Press WV

Forecasters are warning that heavy rains could cause more flooding in some areas of Appalachia already hit by rising waters in recent days.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch from Wednesday evening through Friday evening for portions of northeast Kentucky, southeast Ohio, southwest Virginia and much of West Virginia.

The weather service says an approaching storm system has the potential to produce 1 to 3 inches of rain on already-saturated ground, causing flooding along rivers and low-lying areas.

Recent heavy rains caused flooding that prompted emergency declarations in four Kentucky counties, while mudslides occurred in West Virginia and southeast Virginia.

False alarms highlight weaknesses in national alert system

The Free Press WV

Weather junkie John Grosso knew it was highly unlikely a monster wave was barreling toward the Connecticut coast. Still, when a tsunami warning appeared out of the blue on his phone Tuesday, he felt a twinge of fear. His co-workers, who got the same alert, asked whether they should evacuate.

It turned out to be a false alarm, a computer glitch. The damage? An erosion of trust.

“Now I have to check every single time, God forbid, there’s a tornado warning, a tsunami alert, pick your poison,” said Grosso, 25, a social media manager from Stamford. “I have to look at it and go, ‘Is it a test? Was it sent in error?’ And I could be wasting precious time in case it was real.”

Last month’s bogus ballistic missile warning in Hawaii and, now, this week’s tsunami snafu have highlighted trouble spots and prompted calls for change in the nation’s increasingly complex system for alerting Americans about dangerous weather, active shooters, kidnapped children, plant explosions and other emergencies.

Both incidents have prompted calls for reform, including better training for emergency workers in charge of sending alerts.

More than 1,000 federal, state and local government agencies have the ability to issue emergency alerts through an array of federally managed communications networks. It is a patchwork system that usually works as intended but can wreak havoc when it doesn’t.

In the Senate, legislation introduced this week in response to the false missile alert would establish standards for state and local agencies’ participation in the national alert system, require federal certification of their incident management systems, and recommend steps for avoiding false alarms.

Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission has ordered wireless providers to do a better job of targeting emergency alerts to only those in the affected area, with a geographic “overreach” of no more than one-tenth of a mile.

Aside from the false alarms, emergency agencies have been criticized for sending alerts to too many people or too few. In Alaska, for instance, a tsunami warning triggered by an undersea earthquake in January reached residents of Anchorage even though the city wasn’t in danger. In Northern California wine country, where wildfires killed dozens of people in October, some residents complained that authorities failed to send an emergency alert to their phones.

“The emergency alerting system is really a whole collection of systems, and there are various places where it can break down,” said Dan Gonzales, a scientist at RAND Corp. who studies emergency alert systems. “With so many organizations involved, it’s difficult to make it foolproof.”

The risk of too many false alarms, Gonzales said, is that “people will ignore warnings if they believe they’re not accurate or not relevant.”

That was on vivid display Tuesday when AccuWeather, the private forecasting service, took what was intended to be a routine, monthly National Weather Service test message and sent it as a real warning to subscribers up and down the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

Katia Del Negro, 33, was at home in New York City when she got the alert, her surprise quickly turning to skepticism.

“I definitely got a bit concerned when I saw that many people along the East Coast received the alert,” she said. “But at the same it seemed so weird, so I thought something was off, thinking back about what happened in Hawaii not long ago.”

AccuWeather, based in State College, Pennsylvania, blamed the weather service, saying the government agency miscoded the test message. That caused the company’s computers to interpret it as real and push it to subscribers’ cellphones, according to AccuWeather.

The weather service insisted its message was coded properly.

Daryl Herzmann, a systems analyst in the agronomy department at Iowa State University, said the message contained a “T″ flag, indicating test. But the weather service also recycled a tracking number it used in a previous tsunami warning, probably confusing AccuWeather’s computers, he said.

The weather service has been recycling tracking numbers for years, said Herzmann, who runs an environmental data project that compiles information from the weather service.

Weather service spokeswoman Susan Buchanan had no comment on Herzmann’s observation. She pointed to an earlier statement that said the agency is “working with private sector companies to determine why some systems did not recognize the coding.”

It was human error, not a computer problem, that caused last month’s panic in Hawaii. A state worker mistook a drill for a missile attack and sent an emergency alert to cellphones and broadcast stations. It took nearly 40 minutes for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency to figure out a way to retract the alert. The worker was fired and the agency chief resigned.

“This cry of wolf damaged the credibility of alert messaging, which can be dangerous when a real emergency occurs,” Lisa Fowlkes, an FCC official, said Tuesday during a House committee hearing on the nation’s emergency messaging system.

Jeremy DaRos, of Portland, Maine, who lives near the water and got the erroneous tsunami alert, said he is concerned that people won’t take seriously the emergency alerts they get in an actual crisis.

“People need to trust the alerts they’re pushing out,” he said. “This is important stuff, and to have two incidents in the span of a month is just unacceptable.”

Area Closings, Delays and Early Dismissal on Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Free Press WV

Status of Area Closings Delays and Early Dismissal on Tuesday, February 06, 2018


Closings and Delays

Early Dismissal
Gilmer County Schools



Braxton County Schools



Calhoun County Schools

3-Hour Delay


Doddridge County Schools



Lewis County Schools



Ritchie County Schools

2-Hour Delay


Barbour County Schools



Clay County Schools



Harrison County Schools



Nicholas County Schools



Pleasants County Schools

2-Hour Delay >> All Closed


Roane County Schools



Tyler County Schools

2-Hour Delay >> All Closed


Upshur County Schools



Webster County Schools



Wetzel County Schools

2-Hour Delay >> All Closed


Wirt County Schools

2-Hour Delay


Wood County Schools

2-Hour Delay

Glenville State College


Gilmer County Board of Education


Gilmer County Courthouse


Gilmer County Health Department


Gilmer County Senior Center


Minnie Hamilton Health System, Glenville Office Clinic



Please Send us your closings and delays:  ‘’  or   304.462.8700

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