CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has declared a State of Emergency for all 55 West Virginia counties due to the winter storm event forecast to hit the state in the coming days.
The National Weather Service predicts heavy snow, freezing rains, dangerous wind chills, and strong winds beginning today, Thursday, December 22, 2022, and continuing throughout the week and into the coming holiday weekend.
Gov. Justice also issued an updated proclamation declaring Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, as a full-day state holiday for public employees. Public employees involved in emergency response will continue to be on duty as their supervisors require.
“All West Virginians need to absolutely be ready for the potential impact this winter storm may bring to our state,” Justice said.
“West Virginians should pay extra close attention to emergency officials and media outlets, and be prepared if there are power outages. West Virginians take care of one another, so on this holiday weekend, check on your neighbors and loved ones.”
The State of Emergency allows state agencies to coordinate ahead of a weather event, including by pre-positioning personnel, vehicles, equipment, and other assets.
The following is a summary of current preparations by various state agencies:
West Virginia Emergency Management Division
“This storm will cause difficult travel, extreme cold, and other hazardous conditions,” said EMD Director GE McCabe.
“EMD is in close contact with local emergency management offices, state and federal partners, and utility company representatives to assist and respond when help is needed.”
Coordinating agencies are being placed on standby to support the State Emergency Operations Center should the need arise.
Emergency Management staff will operate the State Emergency Operations Center in a hybrid virtual platform with the EMD Watch Center monitoring 24/7 for changes to weather or other developments that may impact safety and relay critical information immediately to agency leaders for action.
EMD is also hosting twice-a-day virtual briefings with the National Weather Service for county and local emergency agencies statewide. These briefings provide the latest forecasts and operational updates, among other information.
EMD remains in contact with all county emergency management agencies, with no requests for assistance or unmet needs reported at this time.
EMD has posted non-emergency numbers for each county 911 center so our citizens may find help within their local area should they need to locate a warming station or request other assistance.
West Virginia National Guard
“At the direction of Governor Justice, the West Virginia National Guard has identified locations throughout the State of West Virginia that can operate as warming shelters to assist our citizens in the event of prolonged power outages or need for shelter,” Maj. Gen. Bill Crane, the Adjutant General, stated.
“We will coordinate with the Department of Emergency Management and the county Emergency Managers to open these facilities if a need arises. No matter when or where our soldiers and airmen are ready to support West Virginians in a time of need.”
West Virginia Division of Highways
District Engineers and District Managers in all 10 West Virginia Division of Highways districts were meeting with county administrators in their districts to brief them and ensure all counties were prepared to deal with snow and ice.
"We remained prepared for a winter storm," Jimmy Wriston, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation said.
"We conduct dry runs in October. We are fully stocked on salt and abrasives. Our trucks have been prepped for months and we are as ready as we can be for this upcoming storm."
There are approximately 1,080 SRIC trucks mounted with snow-fighting equipment around the state belonging to the division.
DOH is paying close attention to weather reports and stands ready to deal with any emergencies that may arise.
Weather forecast from the National Weather Service:
Precipitation in advance of the next system will move across the region today. Freezing rain and sleet can be expected along the eastern slopes of the mountains. The rest of the region will mainly be rain, although brief winter weather can not be ruled out as the precipitation begins. While impacts will be significant along the eastern slopes of the mountains, impacts will be negligible elsewhere.
A strong arctic front early Friday morning will bring a transition to snow for all locations, as well as strong gusty winds, abruptly ushering in the arctic air and possibly causing blowing snow. Given the rapid temperature drop, a flash freeze is possible Friday morning.
The strong winds and very cold air will produce dangerous wind chill values on Friday and the weekend. Dry weather returns for Saturday into the start of the new week, with a gradual warming trend starting on Sunday, Christmas Day.