"Be prepared" is not just the motto of Boy Scouts today. As the remnants of Hurricane Sandy overspread the Ohio Valley, local police, fire and emergency management officials are asking residents to prepare for the high winds and potentially heavy rain expected today through Tuesday. A flood watch for creeks and streams is in effect through Tuesday and a high wind warning has been issued from noon today through noon Tuesday for the Ohio Valley. Sustained winds of 25-30 mph are expected this afternoon and overnight with gusts up to 60 mph.
Rain will be steady today, increasing in intensity around 10 p.m. and continuing throughout the night. Rainfall is expected to reach about one-half inch throughout the daylight hours and could increase to 1-2 inches late tonight through early Tuesday. Low-lying areas and small creeks and streams could experience high water levels or flooding, according to the National Weather Service.
In Ohio County, the Wheeling-Ohio County Emergency Management Agency Director Lou Vargo has been in contact with other agencies as they prepare for the theatening weather.
The EMA agency, located in the basement of the City-County Building in Wheeling, is designated StormReady by the Pittsburgh office of the National Weather Service. This designation means that StormReady communities are better prepared to save lives from the onslaught of severe weather.
"Still looks like a rain event here, no snow as compared to the eastern counties," Vargo said. "The biggest concern around here today will be the wind. Trees and limbs could come down and knock power out. People should be prepared for that."
Vargo and Wheeling Fire Chief Larry Helms said another concern is clogged sewers. Both suggested that residents make sure to clear drains of leaves and debris. Vargo said the city has had its street sweepers out since 5 a.m. today clearing streets and storm drains.
As for rainfall, Vargo said the concern is for "urban flooding."
"There is some concern about limbs on the ground that could clog sewers.," Vargo added.
Emergency officials remind residents to bring inside anything that could blow around their property and possibly cause injury or damage during the high winds. As rainfall increases, motorists are reminded not to attempt to drive through standing water.
The Wheeling Fire Department has a swift water rescue team in place. However the need for such rescues could be avoided if residents and motorists heed high water warnings, officials said.
Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said his office has been monitoring weather forecasts over the past several days and participating in daily briefings with the National Weather Service, West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and other agencies. He said the biggest potential threats to the Ohio Valley from the storm include high winds, power outages and flooding.
"Check on family, neighbors or friends that may be elderly or anyone who may need assistance in preparing for severe weather conditions," said Hart, stressing that this is particularly important for those who rely on home medical equipment. "Contact their ... supplier to see what emergency service they can provide in the event of power outages."
Meanwhile, forecasters say as much as 3 feet of snow is now possible along the highest ridge tops of West Virginia. The National Weather Service this morning updated its previous forecast, which had said up to 2 feet of snow was possible.
The weather service also expanded a blizzard warning tonight to at least 14 counties as the massive storm moves through the state. Greenbrier, Pendleton and portions of Grant and Mineral counties have been added to the list of those that will get high winds and heavy snow. Also in the warning through Wednesday morning are Fayette, McDowell, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Tucker, Webster and Wyoming counties.
The weather service said eastern parts of the state can expect to get 2 to 6 inches of rain