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Like A Lion: Winter storm blankets Panhandle


The Journal

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.  — Late winter snowstorm Stella brought more of a whimper than a bang to the Eastern Panhandle on Tuesday.

While dumping between 8-11 inches of snow on the area, according to the National Weather Service, the mid-March storm did little in the way of damage, local officials said.

From left: Eamonn MacKinnon, 12, and Mary-Kate MacKinnon,  10, launch themselves down a hill on at War Memorial Park in Martinsburg Tuesday afternoon.
(Photo by Ron Agnir)

The West Virginia State Police, and both the Berkeley and Jefferson County Sheriffs’ offices, reported no major traffic accidents caused by the storm.

An estimated 8.3 inches of snow fell in Martinsburg, according to the NWS. Possible light snow showers could sprinkle the area overnight, according to NWS meteorologist Brian LaSorsa.

Another storm system is forecast to reach the area by Friday, but higher temperatures are likely to produce rain rather than snow, LaSorsa said.

Power company Potomac Edison, which serves Berkeley and Jefferson counties, reported no service outages from the storm.

“In terms of outages — we’ve had zero,” said Potomac Edison spokesman Todd Meyers.

Meyers attributed the good fortune to “snow texture.”

“This was a light, dry snow that doesn’t weigh down power lines, it doesn’t break trees. If this had been a heavy, wet snow — and it is, in certain other areas — or if there had been a lot of wind associated with it, we’d be having a different conversation,” Meyers said. “The air in Berkeley and Jefferson County is cold enough, that it’s just very feather-like, dry snow.”

Low traffic volume in the Panhandle area on Tuesday morning may have played a role in the absence of snow related accidents, highway officials said.

By noon, all interstate roadways and major highways had been plowed, with plow teams moving on to clear secondary roadways, said Carrie Jones, spokesperson for the West Virginia Division of Highways.

By mid-Tuesday morning, the snow storm had diminished to sporadic flurries.

Highway officials said the storm churned out less snow than they had originally expected.

“We were expecting there would be several hours of an inch to two inches dropping an hour,” Jones said.

“It did affect the early morning traffic, but it was much better than if several inches of snow were being dumped right during rush hour at 4 or 5 o’clock.”

Elie Palmer, slides down a hill at War Memorial Park on Tuesday.

Interstates such as I-81 and major highways could coat with ice, with temperatures expected to drop to below 20 degrees, Jones said.

“It’s important to note that salt begins to lose its effectiveness at around 20 degrees,” Jones said. “So, we’re not going to waste product when it starts to get to 25-20 degrees. That’s when we would move into using aggregates like cinders, sand and small rocks, depending on the routes.”

West Virginia drivers appear to have taken safety officials’ advice, Jones said.

“A lot of people were following exactly what they should do,” Jones said. “They didn’t stay in; they had to travel, but they went slow.”

Jones encouraged drivers to continue to exercise caution.

“Everybody has seen the snow, so now they need to slow down,” Jones said. “If there’s snow on the road — take it slow.”

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