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West Virginia is about to experience the coldest temperatures the state has seen in about 20 years.
The National Weather Service issued the following winter weather message mentioning several counties in northern Virginia, western Maryland and eastern West Virginia this afternoon:
WASHINGTON-AUGUSTA-ROCKINGHAM-SHENANDOAH-FREDERICK VA-PAGE-WARREN- CLARKE-HAMPSHIRE-MORGAN-BERKELEY-JEFFERSON-HARDY-INCLUDING THE CITIES OF…HAGERSTOWN…STAUNTON…WAYNESBORO…HARRISONBURG…WINCHESTER…FRONT ROYAL…MARTINSBURG…CHARLES TOWN…MOOREFIELD 251 PM EST MON JAN 6 2014 …WIND CHILL WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM THIS EVENING TO 6 PM EST TUESDAY… * WIND CHILL…15 TO 20 BELOW ZERO…AS LOW AS 30 BELOW ON RIDGELINES. * TIMING…THIS EVENING THROUGH TUESDAY AFTERNOON. THE LOWEST WIND CHILLS ARE LATE THIS EVENING THROUGH MIDDAY TUESDAY. * TEMPERATURES…FALLING INTO THE TEENS THIS EVENING…THEN LOWS ZERO TO 5 ABOVE TONIGHT AND 10 TO 15 ABOVE TUESDAY. * WINDS…WEST 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 45 MPH. * IMPACTS…DANGEROUSLY LOW WIND CHILLS COULD LEAD TO FROSTBITE AND HYPOTHERMIA THIS EVENING THROUGH TUESDAY. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A WIND CHILL WARNING MEANS THE COMBINATION OF VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS WILL CREATE DANGEROUSLY LOW WIND CHILL VALUES. THIS WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA OR DEATH IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN.
Meteorologist Bryan Hughes with WOWK-TV reports that the storm of 1995-1996 brought on several freezing issues in homes and businesses such as:
- Scores of people were dealing with dead car batteries.
- Numerous water lines burst…both in homes and even main town supplies.
- Overworked furnaces resulted in outages for many residents and businesses.
- Natural Gas shortages were reported due to dwindling supplies from prolonged cold and the freezing up of gas wells in some locations.
- Local power companies set all time usage highs.
- House fires resulted as some tried to thaw their pipes.
- Ice jams on rivers…which causes barge traffic to slow and even back up. When the ice broke days later…many barges broke off their moorings and had to be rounded up. River navigational aids were displaced or damaged by the ice.
Meanwhile across the state precautions are being taken to make sure folks can stay warm.
In Jefferson County the Health Department has partnered with Asbury United Methodist Church, American Red Cross and the Eastern Panhandle Medical Reserve Corps to open the center at Asbury United Methodist Church, 110 W North St, Charles Town, W.Va., for those with inadequate shelter that cannot provide protection from the extreme cold. Days and hours of operation: Monday, January 6, 2014, 4 p.m. and will stay open until Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 8 a.m.
Dr. David Didden, Jefferson County Health Officer issued the following statement:
With the combination of cold air and high winds due in our area, please be mindful of the increased chances of frostbite and hypothermia under these conditions. At wind chills of 20 to 30 below, frostbite can occur in 30 minutes or less if skin is not protected. With prolonged exposure to cold, our bodies may not have the energy to maintain adequate heat. This condition is known as hypothermia and is extremely dangerous, particularly to infants and the elderly. Take a few simple but vital precautions to avoid health problems caused by the extreme cold: dress warmly and stay dry by wearing layered winter clothes, especially hats, scarves, gloves, and a water-resistant coat to minimize exposure to wind and moisture; avoid unnecessary time outdoors for infants and seniors; if your home does not have enough heating, use the emergency warming center; and if you are at increased risk for heart disease be sure to check with your doctor about avoiding extra stress on your heart.
Kanawha County Emergency Management and the City of Charleston is urging caution when using alternate heating sources. A news release says rooms where alternate heating is used should have good ventilation, the heater should be three feet away from furniture, fabric and other objects and there should be a working carbon monoxide detector.
Updated: Warming shelters in Kanawha County are open: the Hansford Center in St. Albans will close at 4:30 p.m.and reopen if necessary. The Salvation Army and Red Cross shelter on Tennessee Ave. will stay open all night. South Charleston Community Rec Center will stay open all night. Homeless shelters in the county are open for anyone as long as space is needed.
Anyone who needs help or knows of someone needing help can call the Metro Community Support Line at 304-744-6843.
Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, 88 S Kanawha St, will offer a warming station beginning at 6 p.m. Hot food will be served.
Cold weather has prompted Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack to cancel Tuesday’s live greyhound races. Wheeling Island said the racing schedule will resume Wednesday. Other gaming operations and hotel accommodations will remain open. The National Weather Service says Wheeling’s high temperature on Tuesday is expected to be 4 degrees. Wind chills may reach 32 degrees below zero.
The Berkeley County Health Department, in cooperation with the Berkeley County Office of Homeland Security, Rescue Mission, and the Bethany House will be opening warming shelters in response to the frigid temperatures expected over the next two days and nights.
The shelters will be located at the Rescue Mission and the Bethany House. Adult men are welcomed to shelter at the Rescue Mission at 602 West King Street, Martinsburg and Women and children will be sheltered at the Bethany House at 216 East John Street in Martinsburg. Meals will be available at both locations.
For more information contact the Rescue Mission at (304) 263-6901 or the Bethany House at (304) 263-3510.
A complete list of shelters and warming stations that are open across the state is available at the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management web site.