Published On: Wed, Jan 8th, 2014

Deep freeze plus power outage hits Pocahontas County

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Knapps Creek looked more like a glacier after the temperature in Marlinton rapidly plunged to 10 below zero early Tuesday morning. A blast of arctic air called a polar vortex was responsible for the cold temperatures. Milder conditions were forecast for Wednesday, when the high temperature in Marlinton is expected to be close to 30 degrees.

Knapps Creek looked more like a glacier after the temperature in Marlinton rapidly plunged to 10 below zero early Tuesday morning. A blast of arctic air called a polar vortex was responsible for the cold temperatures. Milder conditions were forecast for Wednesday, when the high temperature in Marlinton is expected to be close to 30 degrees.

A blast of arctic air called a polar vortex hit the northeastern United States and West Virginia on Monday, causing temperatures to fall far below zero for an extended period. Compounding the difficulty of dealing with the adverse weather, a power outage affecting an estimated 6,000 county residents occurred early Tuesday morning about 1 a.m.

National Weather Service meteorological observer Jason Bauserman reported a low temperature of minus 13 in Bartow on Tuesday morning.

“That places as the fourth coldest temperature I have recorded in my 23 years of record keeping,” he said. “In 1994, I had 30 below zero. In 1996, I had 15 below zero, and in 2009, I had 17 below zero.”

The high temperature on Tuesday, expected to be around one degree, was also notable. Bauserman’s lowest recorded high temperature in 23 years was minus three degrees on January 16, 1994. The second-lowest high temperature recorded at Bartow in the same time period was one degree on February 4, 1996.

“This past Sunday night, when I went to bed, it was 42 degrees,” said Bauserman. “Last night, at 11 p.m., when I was ready to retire, it was minus nine. That’s a 51 degree drop in a 24-hour period. In my 23 years of records for NOAA, I have never seen that much movement, either up or down, in a 24-hour period.”

A polar vortex occurs when the polar jet stream dips farther south than usual, bringing arctic air to lower latitudes. The polar jet streams are fast-flowing wind currents found toward the Earth’s poles, at altitudes of 23,000 to 39,000 feet above sea level.

Snowshoe Mountain Resort, at nearly 5,000 feet in elevation, reported a low temperature of 23 below zero early Tuesday morning.

Power went out at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning in central Pocahontas County, between Dunmore and Buckeye. After daylight Tuesday morning, Mon Power used a helicopter to search for a downed line between Cass and Stony Bottom. Power was restored in downtown Marlinton by 2 p.m. on Tuesday and to outlying areas between 3 p.m.and 4 p.m.

During the power outage, Pocahontas County EMS established warming stations at Marlinton Municipal Building and the NRAO in Green Bank. The Green Bank Senior Center and Huntersville Baptist Church offered warm meals during the power outage. Tuesday afternoon, Emergency Services Director Shawn Dunbrack said he was not aware of any serious mishaps or casualties due to the inclement weather and power outage.

Bitter cold conditions were forecast to continue through Tuesday night. The National Weather Service forecast milder conditions for Wednesday, with an expected high temperature near 30 in Marlinton.

About the Author

- Geoff Hamill can be contacted at gshamill@pocahontastimes.com