By John Raby
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin asked West Virginia residents to stay home and off the roads Thursday after a winter storm buried parts of the state in up to 2 feet of snow and made traveling treacherous statewide.
Winter storm warnings remained in effect across the state through Thursday afternoon.
No deaths were immediately reported and major utilities Appalachian Power and FirstEnergy reported only scattered power outages.
In Grant County, where 18 inches of snow had fallen at Mount Storm, county emergency services and 911 director Peggy Alt said several tractor-trailers were hung up on Walkers Ridge on state Route 93 but otherwise there were no problems.
“We’re good here. It’s terribly deep but it’s light and fluffy. It’s easy to move,” Alt said. “We’ve just been real lucky. You can get around if you know how to drive.”
Driving conditions on interstates and other major highways ranged from fair to hazardous, according to the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
Public transit systems were shut down, and some buses that did make it out got stuck in the snow, as did some tractor-trailers on interstates. Interstate 77 north of Charleston was shut down temporarily but reopened by late morning.
In Martinsburg, where at least 15 inches of snow had fallen, Ginger Grimes of Ginger’s Flower Shop said some of her workers stayed in local motels and others slept at her house overnight in preparations for making Valentine’s Day deliveries.
She expected to have 10 people working Friday, up from three on Thursday, and her shop is using two 4-wheel drive vehicles and putting two delivery people in each vehicle.
“We’re able to make a few deliveries, but not many,” Grimes said. “We’re shoveling out right now and we’re going to soon be prioritizing our orders for tomorrow, figuring what places we can get to.”
She said the storm would put a big dent in sales to walk-in customers while hampering deliveries to some remote, snowbound areas.
“In the end, it’s going to do a major impact on all the flowers shops,” Grimes said.
Her shop planned to extend its hours on Saturday to get as many orders filled as possible.
“We’re in good spirits,” said Grimes, who’s seen plenty of Valentine’s snowstorms in her 40 years in business. “We’re doing the best we can.”
Her county, Berkeley, declared an emergency in order to request additional resources from the state.
Storm totals included 2 feet in the Pendleton County community of Cherry Grove, 19 inches in Millville in Jefferson County and Lehew in Hampshire County, and 18 inches in Harman in Randolph County, preliminary figures from the National Weather Service showed.
Residents in some western counties that were expecting only a few inches of snow were caught by surprise. Charleston received 7 inches.
Danny Kinder of Elkview was forced to take an alternate route around a snow-clogged road as he drove his wife to work in downtown Charleston.
“It’s a mess. I’m snowboarding out there,” he said.
The storm closed public schools in 50 of the state’s 55 counties, along with several public and private colleges and universities. Court systems in a dozen counties also were closed.