By Chad Clem and Melissa Toothman, Staff Writers
BUCKHANNON - County officials made preparations for flooding conditions as water levels continued to rise Wednesday.
High waters in Buckhannon prompted the early dismissal of all Upshur County public schools. Students were dismissed at 1:30 p.m., officials said.
"Due to rising waters, students are being dismissed early to get the buses (out early) in case we have more roads being issued with closures, because the water has been coming up," Curriculum Specialist John Haymond said.
Jim Farrell, the Upshur County Office of Emergency Management public information officer, said that no roads were officially closed in Upshur County on Wednesday. However, some roads were experiencing issues with water.
Farrell said Stoney Run in Buckhannon, particularly, might be considered impassable. Stoney Run and Beech Run roads were just two of the streets on a longer list, growing in number, of locations along the areas in the county affected by high waters, Farrell said.
"It's simple to say that there are many roads with water and the number is increasing at this time," Farrell said just after 1:30 p.m., later adding that "we definitely have minor water problems in the usual low spots."
Farrell said that he had been listening to reports from school bus drivers who were transporting students home after the early dismissal.
"It sounds like it was a good call (closing the schools early) because I'm listening to the bus drivers and they are encountering problems," Farrell said.
When asked specific details as to the expectations of flooding and high water, Farrell said he could only make "educated guesses" because the data is reliant upon equipment that sometimes might not send a signal about the weather conditions more than once every hour. Some of the equipment, he said, could fail to send a signal if it is faulty.
"Right now the National Weather Service tells us that the Buckhannon River will not flood," Farrell said, "but if somebody's house was flooded two to three days ago, chances are it's flooding right now. As far as new flooding, we're not aware of it.
"The last we were told from the National Weather Service this morning (the Buckhannon River) was supposed to crest at 20 feet. That gives us another foot of safety margin, but we've heard that before. These are all educated guesses at this point."
Farrell also said that as of 12:33 p.m., the flood warning for Upshur County had been lifted by the National Weather Service because the heaviest rain had already come and gone. He said that the ice melt and water in other locations would continue to flow into streams and rivers, however.
When water began to cover a roadway in the Leading Creek area Wednesday, Randolph County Board of Education officials made arrangements to get students home safely.
Superintendent Terry George said that the school system's transportation coordinator, Randy Long, worked to find a solution to the situation.
"We've had some temporary road closures throughout the day," said Jim Wise, director of the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management. "We are continuing to monitor the weather.
"The good news is that we have no concerns of ice at this time, even if the temperatures drop a little bit. The heaviest rain is past us and water levels should continue to recede."
The National Weather Service in Charleston reported a strong rise on the Tygart River due to the overnight rain and melted snow.
Meteorologist Ken Batty told The Inter-Mountain that the worst of this week's weather is almost over.
"We are going to see some rain and a little bit of snow but no big storms," Batty said. "We're looking at an inch or more of snow but temperatures are turning pretty seasonal after that. (On) Friday things are warming up and then everything levels out by the weekend. No major warm-up but no severe cold either."
Barbour County did not experience much flooding Wednesday, Office of Emergency Director Cindy Hart said. The state Department of Highways did not issue any road closures; however, the area experienced nuisance flooding and over-run streams.
"Earlier today, I believe on Route 76, there was one road where the ditch was overran because it came up so fast, but it went back down," Hart said. "Other than that (nuisance flooding), we've not had reports of any road closures from the DOH or any of the responders that have been out. Nobody called to say their homes are affected. Right now we're just kind of holding our own."
Hart also received notice from the National Weather Service that the worst of the heavy rain had passed and that the runoff into streams and bodies of water would continue.
"(Runoff from streams and rivers) is not expected to come out of the banks, and it still has a long ways to go before flooding would occur from the river rising," Hart said.
The Tucker County Office of Emergency Management reported no flooding in the county as of Wednesday afternoon.