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Entire region hit hard by second round of snow

Feb. 10, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- As parts of West Virginia braced Tuesday for a foot or more of additional snow, Gov. Joe Manchin ordered the inspection of all schools and other public buildings where roofs may be in danger of collapsing.

Officials were working to avoid a repeat of the winter of 1998 when roof cave-ins were blamed for at least three deaths, said Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jimmy Gianato. Authorities are focusing on buildings in the Eastern Panhandle, which received up to 3 feet of snow over the weekend and could receive another 16 inches by Wednesday.

So far, collapses have been limited to a handful of porch roofs and awnings.

Manchin said he's concerned about the risk of collapse from heavy snow on flat roofs like those at supermarkets and schools, which may not have been built to withstand so much weight.

"Every business person and public building should know what their critical limits are," Manchin said.

Meanwhile, a West Virginia official says three people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning linked to gasoline generators used during the winter storms.

Homeland Security director Jimmy Gianato says the state medical examiner determined the cause of death of all three Tuesday.

Gianato says a 71-year-old man and his 70-year-old wife were found unresponsive in the attached garage of a Monongalia County home Monday. The medical examiner's report says a ventilation hose came loose from a gas generator they were using in the garage.

Gianato says a 68-year-old Jefferson County man found in his garage also was using a generator when he was overcome by fumes Monday.

Schools across the state were closed on Tuesday and many in the Eastern Panhandle had already been cancel through Wednesday.

Allegheny Power crews were working to restore service to about 14,600 customers who lost power over the weekend.

About 300 National Guard troops have been dispatched to the Eastern Panhandle and to Preston and Monongalia counties. Troops are helping to move food, water, medicine and oxygen, and transport people in emergencies.

For many communities, the biggest challenges are where to put the snow that's already accumulated and how to move what's coming.

"We've got the men, but we don't have the equipment," said Keyser Mayor Sonny Rhodes, whose five city-owned pickup trucks have taken a beating while trying to plow more than 30 inches of heavy, wet snow.

In Kentucky, residents seemed to fare a little better.

The storm dropped up to seven inches or more of snow in the state's second round in a week.

Despite the mess, the snow storm didn't appear to do much damage as it moved eastward toward the mountains. There were no reports of emergencies or major accidents, said Buddy Rogers, director of Kentucky Emergency Management.

"It looks like we dodged another bullet," Rogers said.

The new system dropped snow on top of the remnants of a storm a week ago, said Joe Ammerman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Louisville.

The storm had cleared the Louisville area around 11:30 a.m., with temperatures falling into the 20s and winds gusting up to 25 mph bringing up the rear, Ammerman said.

"As soon as this moves out, there's really no precipitation behind it," Ammerman said. "Even after the snow quits, there's going to be some blowing and drifting snow."

Once the snow stopped, road crews had an opportunity to catch up and push the snow and slush off the highways ahead of the falling temperatures, said Andrea S. Clifford, a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 5 spokeswoman.

Highway crews planned to plow and salt roads throughout the evening and overnight and monitor for refreezing of melted snow, Clifford said.

In northeastern Kentucky, roads were also snow covered and slick before dawn, said Allen Blair of the state Transportation Cabinet.

In Ohio, authorities say a 63-year-old man Ohio man was found dead under snow in his yard, with his shovel next to him.

Police in Boardman Township say the body of George Harris was discovered Monday morning by search crews using dogs. Authorities suspect he died while clearing snow sometime over the weekend.

The area outside Youngstown in northeast Ohio received 9 inches of snow Friday and Saturday.

Police say neighbors of Harris contacted his relatives when he wasn't seen during the weekend. Also, his church became concerned Sunday when Harris didn't show up to play the organ as scheduled.

The Mahoning County Coroner's office said Tuesday that Harris had coronary artery disease and died of natural causes.

Elsewhere in the Buckeye state, school sporting events and government meetings were being canceled and Ohio put more than 1,000 trucks into service clearing roads as a snow spreads across the state.

Virtually all of Ohio is under a winter storm warning until at least Wednesday evening. The National Weather Service forecasts up to 10 inches of snow.

The Cincinnati and Toledo school districts were among dozens that closed for the day, and most Columbus students went home early. In Cincinnati, Mayor Mark Mallory canceled his "Mayor's Night In" meeting with residents.

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