Winter storm Jonas blankets county

OAK GROVE PRESBYTERIAN Church in Hillsboro resembles the setting of a English novel as it rises from its snow covered surroundings. Photo courtesy of Dottie Malcom Brock
OAK GROVE PRESBYTERIAN Church in Hillsboro resembles the setting of an English novel as it rises from its snow covered surroundings. Photo courtesy of Dottie Malcom Brock.

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

On January 20, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued a statewide State of Preparedness in anticipation of Winter Storm Jonas’ arrival, and on January 22, at 9:58 a.m., he transitioned the State of Preparedness to a State of Emergency. Shortly after Governor Tomblin’s declaration, snow began to fall in Pocahontas County. Within half an hour, an inch of snow had accumulated, and the snow showed no sign of letting up.

With a worst-case scenario prediction of two feet looming overhead, Pocahontas County residents settled in for a wintery weekend.

By Sunday morning, Winter Storm Jonas had passed, and the snowfall had subsided. Close to 15 inches of accumulation were reported within Marlinton’s town limits, and according to Office of Emergency Services Director Mike O’Brien, Pocahontas County faired rather well against Jonas.

“This was a normal winter storm for us,” O’Brien said of the weekend’s snowfall, “and we were lucky that the snow we got was a fine powdery snow. Other counties in the state had very heavy, wet snowfall, and they were hit much harder than we were.”

Not a single power outage was reported, and very few emergency calls were made over the weekend. Accidents were equally as sparse, though reports of lost windshield wipers and tractor tire difficulties, and the like, have circulated among county residents.

In order to keep the main two-lane roads clear, snow plows ran 24/7, and O’Brien thanked residents for helping the plow operators to do their job.

IT TOOK WORK to get to work Saturday as is evidenced by the path to the door of the West Virginia Department of Highways office in Marlinton. Snowplow drivers and office staff put in many long hours during and after the storm. Photo courtesy of E. Hollandsworth
IT TOOK WORK to get to work Saturday as is evidenced by the path to the door of the West Virginia Department of Highways office in Marlinton. Snowplow drivers and office staff put in many long hours during and after the storm. Photo courtesy of E. Hollandsworth.

“By cooperating with us and staying off the road, people allowed the plows to run and clear the roads in a timely manner,” he said.

Due to its steep incline and plowing challenges in the past, Snowshoe Drive South was the only road to be closed this weekend, and it reopened Sunday afternoon.

Plows began clearing secondary roads throughout the county Sunday, as well, and Thane Ryder Contracting, Alderman’s Excavating – along with the assistance of sons Ryan, Jason and Jodie – and Andrew Grimes were hired by the town of Marlinton to remove the excess snow.

“The town employees and private contractors that we used have all done an exceptional job,” Mayor Sam Felton said. “We worked through the entire weekend and managed to keep up with the storm. We’re still working on some finishing touches, but I’m pleased with what we’ve accomplished so far.”

While this weekend might have been the perfect time for residents to indulge in a little down time as they waited for the storm to pass, it was a different story for those visiting Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

Initially, the resort expressed concern about the timing of the storm’s arrival on Friday.

“We weren’t sure what to expect,” PR Specialist Shawn Cassell said. “We kept looking ahead at the forecast and were expecting to receive quite a few cancellations, but it was the exact opposite.”

According to Cassell, the snowfall had accumulated to 36 inches by Sunday, and many of the resort’s guests decided to stay an extra night in anticipation of school closings on Monday.

However, the excitement over the fresh snow proved to be a challenge for Snowshoe.

“When it snows this much, people are very enticed to poach some runs,” Cassell explained. “With Lower Shay’s Revenge, our double black diamond slope, there are some really deep drainage ditches, and they’re not completely full after a winter storm like that. I think we ended up with three broken legs this weekend.”

Aside from the resort’s more adventuresome guests, the weekend was considered to be a success.

Knowing that future storms are possible, O’Brien stressed the importance of taking time to prepare. He urged residents to stay up to date with weather reports and to make sure they have enough groceries by planning a trip to the store in advance. For those with kerosene heaters, generators and lanterns, he advised purchasing back up fuel in the event of a power outage.

O’Brien reminded residents to check in on their neighbors and stressed the importance of signing up for Pocahontas County’s Nixle Community and Weather Alert System, as well.

“Through Nixle, we are able to send emergency situation alerts and notifications via email and text messaging,” he explained. “It can even call your house phone, and you’ll receive a recorded message detailing what’s going on.”

Pocahontas County residents can sign up for Nixle alerts by visiting the Pocahontas County Emergency Management’s website at www.pocahontasemergency.com. The form is located near the bottom of the page.

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