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Frigid temperatures are expected through Christmas as arctic air invades West Virginia

BUCKHANNON — Several days of brutally cold weather are expected to usher in a chilly Christmas throughout West Virginia as an arctic air mass storms southeast early Friday morning.

“An arctic cold front will blast through the region late [Thursday night], bringing a rapid temperature drop, a burst of snow, strong winds and biting wind chills,” the National Weather Service said Thursday afternoon. “While snow amounts will be light, any moisture on untreated roads will freeze, creating hazardous travel conditions. Wind chills Friday into the weekend will be as cold as 25 below zero in the lowlands and 45 below zero in the mountains.”

In Buckhannon, the temperature is expected to plunge in the early morning Friday, dropping from about 40 degrees at 4 a.m. to single digits by 10 a.m. The forecast calls for temps to hover just above zero for a full day before rising to a balmy 13 degrees by about 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

The high temperature on Christmas is 19 degrees, increasing to 27 by Monday and finally above freezing on Tuesday.

A winter weather advisory has been issued for the area.

“For the Wind Chill Warning, dangerously cold wind chills expected,” the NWS says. “Wind chills as low as 25 below zero. For the Winter Weather Advisory, snow expected. Total snow accumulations of up to two inches. Winds gusting as high as 45 mph.”

The high winds and bitter cold will make travel challenging.

“Plan on slippery road conditions,” the NWS warns. “Patchy blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute. The cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.”

The NWS asks residents to limit their outdoor activities.

“Avoid outside activities if possible,” the advisory says. “When outside, make sure you wear appropriate clothing, a hat, and gloves.”

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has declared a state of emergency for the entire state. He also declared Friday a full-day holiday for state employees.

“All West Virginians need to absolutely be ready for the potential impact this winter storm may bring to our state,” Justice said in a press release. “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, make sure you check on your neighbors and loved ones.”

The West Virginia Emergency Management Division is making the necessary preparations to respond to incidents as needed.

“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,” the press release notes. “EMD is also hosting twice-a-day virtual briefings with the National Weather Service for county and local emergency agencies statewide … EMD remains in contact with all county emergency management agencies, with no requests for assistance or unmet needs reported at this time.”

The W.Va. National Guard is also preparing for the storm.

“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,” stated Maj. Gen. Bill Crane, the Adjutant General, in a press release. “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.”

The W.Va. Department of Highways held meetings in all 10 districts on Thursday.

“We remained prepared for a winter storm,” Jimmy Wriston, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation said, in the release. “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.”

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