HUNTINGTON — As the remnants of the Tri-State’s first significant snowfall of the season melt away, a new winter weather system is expected to arrive from the west Sunday, blanketing the region with wet, heavy snow.
The National Weather Service on Friday issued a winter storm watch covering all of West Virginia and large portions of neighboring states, advising that moderate to heavy snowfall is likely to descend in the region starting early Sunday, producing accumulations of 4 to 8 inches in the western lowlands.
In the state’s eastern mountains, accumulations could reach the 10- to 12-inch range and be accompanied by winds gusting at up to 35 mph.
In the Kanawha Valley and other points west of the mountains, Sunday’s snowfall could turn to freezing rain during the afternoon before returning to all snow Sunday night and early Monday.
The winter storm watch, in effect from Sunday morning to early Monday, cautioned that “travel could be very difficult to impossible” statewide during and immediately after the snowfall, making the morning commute Monday a challenge.
Monday’s public school classes already are canceled for the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
West Virginia Division of Highways snowplow crews spent the day Friday ramping up preparations for the expected snowy weather, with snow removal and ice control (SRIC) crews ready to weather the storm and work around the clock to keep the state’s interstates and highways clear.
Joe Pack, deputy state highway engineer for Division Operations, said the state’s 10 highway districts have 1,100 snowplows of various sizes. Some are dedicated to keeping the state’s interstates clear, while others cover U.S. highways, state routes and secondary roads, according to a news release from the Department of Transportation. Another 41 snowplows are responsible for snow and ice removal on the West Virginia Turnpike.
The Division of Highways also has a stockpile of 180,000 tons of salt to treat roads, the release said.
The rapid descent of wet, heavy snow could cause tree limbs to break and fall across power lines, increasing the likelihood for at least scattered outages, particularly in areas receiving the heaviest snow, according to the National Weather Service.
In Kentucky, where forecasts predict wet, heavy snow that could mix with sleet and freezing rain, Gov. Andy Beshear urged caution on the roadways.
“Kentuckians should take time now to plan and prepare for the pending weather, so that we can keep as many people as possible off the roads overnight Saturday and Sunday,” Beshear said in a release.
Snow accumulations of 3 to 8 inches are expected in the eastern region of the state, while accumulations of 1 to 6 inches are expected in northern, central and western Kentucky.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet crews have been readying equipment, stockpiling salt and ensuring plows and salt spreaders are in working order. Crews also pretreated roads in a few districts where conditions were dry enough, the release said.
On Friday, the fast-moving storm system dropped heavy snow across a large swath of the Midwest, where travel conditions deteriorated and scores of schools closed or moved to online instruction.
A winter storm watch extended from just north of metro Atlanta to Arkansas in the west and Pennsylvania in the north, covering parts of 10 states including Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.