CLARKSBURG – The first effects of the polar vortex occurred early Wednesday morning in North-Central West Virginia, with a number of traffic accidents.
Light snow, wind and cold temperatures were the perfect mix for dangerous driving conditions, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker.
"Anything that melts as a result of the treatment can re-freeze," he said. "The salts they put down become ineffective at certain points."
According to a Harrison-Taylor 911 supervisor about 10 traffic accidents were reported starting at 8:00 PM. Tuesday until 13:00 Wednesday.
"Most of them have been weather-dependent," the supervisor said.
Fortunately, the accidents resulted in no or only minor injuries.
One accident involved a road tanker that rolled on its side because of the road conditions. The wreck snapped traffic on the I-79 at the Lost Creek exit and resulted in a person being taken to hospital by Anmoore EMS.
Sarah Insalaco, who travels to Clarksburg from Morgantown for work, said the road conditions were not favorable on Wednesday morning.
"It was pretty rough," she said. "The northern lane had a number of wrecks and vehicles going off the road and I went south over the river Mon. It was a bit icy."
Walker said that by Thursday the height will be 18 degrees. But because of the wind and despite the sun, it will feel as if the temperature is in the single digits, almost zero at high altitude.
Walker said motorists should be careful until Thursday morning, on Friday morning because 2 to 4 inches of snow hit the region, with 3 to 6 inches in higher altitudes. The snow, he said, is a good sign.
"It signals in some warmer air," he said.
On Friday, the high will reach 35 degrees, and temperatures will continue to rise Saturday with a high of 46 and Sunday with a high of 54. That's when the vortex retreats into the northern region of the world.
While waiting for warmer temperatures Walker said it is important to protect exposed areas of the skin when they are out in the cold by wearing gloves, hats, scarves and water-resistant clothing.
"Hypothermia happens quickly at these temperatures," he said.
Clarksburg mayor Cathy Goings said she remembers as a youngster who checks the time and temperature on the Lowndes Bank clock before she goes to school.
"If it was zero or higher, we were good to go," she said.
Goings said she did not remember that the temperature in such a short time changed from icy to almost 60 degrees, but said she had taken precautions to get through the short period of heavy cold.
"We make sure the water stays behind in an infusion, so that the pipes do not freeze," she said.
Due to severe temperatures, many West Virginia school systems canceled Thursday classes, including Marion, Barbour, Upshur, Taylor, Harrison and Doddridge.
West Virginia University announced the closure from 13:00 on Wednesday to 13:00 Thursday. The PRT, Mountainlair and Student Rec Center would also reopen on Thursday afternoon.
Victoria Cann, the spokeswoman for Fairmont State University, said the university canceled classes from two o'clock in the afternoon. Wednesday until 13:00 Thursday.
Pierpont Community & Technical College works according to the same guidelines as FSU.
And Alderson Broaddus University canceled lessons until Friday.
The mission of Clarksburg is at full capacity, but the dining room remains open from 8 am to 6 pm. throughout the week for individuals to seek shelter from the cold.
Richard Manfrin of Clarksburg, who is staying on the mission, said it is a blessing to have the dining room open.
"In this weather there is no reason why someone should be outside," Manfrin said.
The emergency shelter at the United Methodist Temple in Clarksburg will be operational from 5 pm onwards. up to and including Saturday until 9:00 am for anyone who needs a warm place to spend the night.