CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Jim Justice has directed the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM) and the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) to prepare for potential extreme cold weather expected to impact the Mountain State beginning today through Thursday of this week.
A strong polar vortex is currently forecast to exit the arctic and impact a large swath of the United States in the coming days, including all of West Virginia, leading to dangerous and life threatening cold temperatures and wind chills well below zero.
Currently forecast to arrive tonight, January 28th, and last through Thursday, January 31st, the polar vortex will bring with it daytime highs across most of West Virginia in the single digits to below zero, and overnight wind chill temperatures of -25 or lower in portions of northeast West Virginia with the possibility of light snow for much of the area. Higher elevations above 2,500 feet will likely see even colder temperatures with wind chill temperature of down to -40 near Snowshoe, with strong sustained winds, whipping snow and potential white out conditions. Wind chills will fall below zero for most locations in West Virginia by Wednesday morning and actual temperatures will fall below zero for most locations by Thursday morning.
Accumulations of snow will be light tonight, but gusty winds and plummeting temperatures will produce a flash freeze on roads throughout the state, which may impact the Tuesday morning commute.
The West Virginia Department of Transportation continues to stay prepped and ready for the latest winter weather event. The Division of Highways (DOH) will be pre-positioning its assets to treat major roads throughout the State, through the duration of the event.
Please remember, when temperatures dip below 20 degrees, salt loses its effectiveness. DOH crews will add calcium chloride to their salt mix to assist at colder temperatures, but temperatures in the single digits change the focus from melting ice to aiding traction by putting additional aggregate in the mix. Please visit www.wv511.org for up-to-date traveler information and road conditions.
Temperatures are expected return to average by Saturday, February 2nd.
Extreme cold of this nature poses many threats to humans, animals, and property such as frostbite, hypothermia, frozen/busted pipes, dead vehicle batteries, carbon monoxide poisoning and can lead to increased heating bills, school delays/cancellations, business closures, power outages, water system issues, tree damage, roadway damage, dangerously icy roads, and white out/blizzard conditions. Being aware of those threats and preparing for them prior to the onset of extreme cold is paramount.
The State Fire Marshal is asking residents to take precautions in preparation for the extreme cold to prevent deadly fires. Residents are urged to check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; never leave space or portable heaters, wood burning stoves, or fireplaces turned on when away from home; do not use extension cords to run portable heaters; never use your oven to heat your home; and remove vehicles from garages before starting them as this can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Additional safety tips from the State Fire Marshal are available at https://firemarshal.wv.gov
Portions of the state are under various Winter Weather Advisories, Watches, and Warnings through Thursday, January 31st. We urge individuals to monitor their weather situation via local television, radio, and news outlets, the National Weather Service and also by following WVDHSEM on social media. We will be posting important safety messages this week on extreme cold to the WVDHSEM Facebook and Twitter pages – follow WVDHSEM at: https://www.facebook.com/WVDHSEM/ and https://twitter.com/WVDHSEM.
For more information on extreme cold and how to prepare:
• Shelters and disaster information by county: www.redcross.org/local/west-virginia/get-help.html
• FEMA: https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather
• Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/…/types-of-emerg…/winter-storm.html
• CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/guide.html
• Work Safety: OSHA: https://www.osha.gov/…/emergencypreparedne…/guides/cold.html
• Pet and Livestock Safety: AVMA: https://www.avma.org/…/P…/Pages/Cold-weather-pet-safety.aspx
• Heating safety: https://firemarshal.wv.gov
• Road Conditions and Travel Information: www.wv511.org