Snowstorm coats roads, cancels school

PARKERSBURG – Bitter cold and slick roads canceled classes at schools throughout the state and region Friday morning.

Overnight snow covered a layer of ice Thursday into Friday, leading to dozens of accidents Thursday evening. Temperatures in some areas of the region dipped into the low-teens to single digits.

Wood County saw a low Friday of 14 and a high of 21. Most snowfall had stopped by midday, but the morning commute was snarled by a layer of ice under snow on many back roads.

Fifty of West Virginia’s 55 county school systems, including all area school systems, canceled classes Friday. Only five school systems- Berkeley, Hancock, Jefferson, Mason and Wyoming- did not have cancellations or delays listed on the West Virginia Department of Education’s web site.

Department spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said those school systems either were not yet in session from winter break or did not report their status to the department Friday.

In Ohio, schools in Washington and Athens counties were closed Friday.

West Virginia University at Parkersburg and Marietta College called for two-hour delays Friday morning for essential personnel. Classes at area colleges don’t begin until the middle of the month.

Roads remained treacherous Friday morning.

“Still trying to get caught up from last night, and this is the second one this morning,” said Vienna Police Sgt. Kevin Parrish as he prepared to leave the scene of a two-vehicle accident at Ninth Avenue and 16th Street to head to another at the entrance of Wal-Mart on Grand Central Avenue Friday.

Parrish responded to four crashes Friday, but around the county there were fewer accidents than Thursday afternoon and evening.

“I was surprised this morning how calm it was,” said Douglas Moore, assistant supervisor at the Wood County 911 Center. “Not too many people traveling, which was good.”

A total of 11 wrecks were called into the center between 5:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., none of which involved serious injuries, Moore said. Four of those came after noon when temperatures had risen and likely weren’t attributable to the weather, he said.

“I think that’s just normal wrecks we would have had anyway,” Moore said.

Parkersburg resident Laken Withrow was hesitant about getting on the road Friday morning for a hair appointment she’d made before the snow was expected. Withrow, a graduate student at West Virginia University, said her father reassured her she’d be all right.

“He’s like, ‘If you can drive in Morgantown snow, you can make it,'” she said with a laugh.

The overnight storm was part of a series of winter storms which moved through the Midwest and into the East, bringing rapidly dropping temperatures, ice and snow.

The National Weather Service reported a temperature of 7 degrees in Beckley at 5 a.m. Friday. High temperatures in the teens were forecast for many areas, with wind chill factors as low as 15 to 20 degrees below zero in the morning.

Media outlets report several traffic accidents on roads covered with ice and snow. Some areas in the eastern part of the state had up to 6 inches of snow. The weather service said light, blowing snow was expected to continue in some areas Friday morning before tapering off later in the day. Winter weather advisories and warnings were issued for most of the state.

Ohio got some of the coldest temperatures in the state in years Friday, with more snow and colder weather expected during the next few days. Temperatures in some areas were in single digits to start the day, with wind chills well below zero. Forecasters said wind chills in Cleveland could dip as low as 20-below. After a warm up today and Sunday, temperatures will dive back down, with highs throughout the state from only zero to 5 for Monday.

West Virginia and the Wood County area also will see a severe drop in temperatures, with temperatures plummeting from a high of 48 Sunday to an overnight low of 8 and highs in the low teens for Monday and Tuesday. The low Monday could hit negative 5, according to the National Weather Service.

After Thursday’s winter snowstorm, Washington County remained under a level two snow emergency early today.

A level one snow emergency, where drivers should be cautious of drifting and blowing snow and icy road conditions, was declared at noon Thursday before being upgraded to a level two emergency at around 5 p.m., where it remained.

“In a level two emergency, roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow,” said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. “Only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be on the roadways.”

Mincks said the most severe emergency, a level three, where all roadways are closed to non-emergency personnel, had not been declared for many years.

The poor condition of the secondary streets and back roads led the emergency to remain in effect late Friday and into today.

“The main thoroughfares may be OK but the back roads and secondary roads are not,” Mincks said. “We usually wait until at least 75 to 80 percent of the roads are pretty well passable until lifting the emergency.”

Roger Wright, Washington County engineer, said most county roads are looking decent, adding that crews worked until the wee hours of the morning Friday to make sure roads were passable by plowing and treating them.

In parts of Washington County with plenty of back roads, the sun on Friday helped improve the road conditions.

“We laid down cinders on the roads and with the help of the sunshine, we’ve got a lot of the snow melted away,” said Decatur Township Trustee Terry Welch on Friday afternoon. “This sunshine has really helped us out.”

However, the news wasn’t all good in that area, with a log truck that got stuck on a country road Thursday night still stuck late Friday, said Welch.

Things were looking much better by Friday afternoon in Salem Township, said Trustee Bill Kidd.

“We’ve been over nearly all of (the roads),” he said. “We got all the hills. We’ve had some wrecks as far as that’s concerned, but otherwise now we’re in pretty good shape.”

Four to six inches of snow had been removed from some roads in parts of Liberty Township, said Trustee Barry Hendershot, but some hazards remained a day after the snow fell.

“Most roads have gravel on them, especially on the hills,” he said. “It’s still going to be slick in some areas.”

(The Marietta Times and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)