The Atlantic coastal storm surge and ubiquitous rain of Hurricane Sandy were almost upstaged by heavy snowfalls to the west. Along the Appalachian mountain chain stretching from New England to the Southland, Hurricane Sandy dumped three feet of October snow. As well as the southerly and mid-Atlantic mountain states, New York and western Massachusetts also experienced snow.
Many parts of mountainous West Virginia, a major coal-producing state, felt high winds, flooding, and blizzard conditions during Hurricane Sandy.
Three to four and a half inches of rain fell through Wednesday in lower-lying areas of West Virginia. Three feet of October snow blanketed the higher elevations. In particular, Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort and Stonewall Resort were affected.
Officials had to shut an interstate highway for a night from Morgantown to the Maryland line after five tractor-trailers jackknifed on the slick surface. The Charleston area mostly retained power. Downtown hotels were open as well as shelters. West Virginia suffered multiple fatalities, including the death of Republican legislative candidate John Rose Sr., struck by a falling tree in Barbour County.
Power outages in West Virginia totaled almost 275,000, with 235,566 still remaining on Wednesday. The state usually has trouble restoring electricity in its rural and remote territory.
Pennsylvania experienced 60- to 80-mph winds, starting from its eastern end (Philadelphia) and extending across the commonwealth.
Sandy’s eye reached southwestern Pennsylvania, with a wet, heavy snow occurring around Pittsburgh, and then turned northward and headed for western New York. Wind, flooding, and snow in this region closed roads. Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories remained in effect along Pennsylvania’s Appalachian mountains, which divide the state, through Wednesday.
Over 1.3 million electric outages occurred throughout Pennsylvania in one of the largest mass power shutdowns in state history. 850,000 remained without power on Wednesday. Generating stations, one of them nuclear, and refineries in the eastern part of the state lost power or were intentionally shut down.
The Appalachian Mountains in western Maryland accumulated about three feet of snow during Hurricane Sandy, while the eastern half of the state cleaned up from storm surges on the Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay. Power outages continued through Wednesday at nearly 300,000.
Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories prevailed through most of the week. A pileup of tractor-trailers blocked part of Interstate 68 on Big Savage Mountain.
Virginia experienced western snow, as well as the storm surge and up to nine inches of soaking rain in the east.
Beth Macy, a Roanoke-based journalist, posted before the storm: “Which pre-storm urge is strongest: typing as fast as I can before the power goes out, or using my oven to bake? Such a toss-up here on my block, where power grid seems interlaced with dental floss, tin cans and third-grade pot holders…. OK, lasagna it is.”
Power outages throughout the commonwealth totaled 180,000, down to about 40,000 Wednesday. Utility crews worked on restoring power to the western part of Virginia after high winds and over two feet of snow hampered energy transmission in the mountains. Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories were declared for the October storm in the Appalachians.
In the eastern part of Virginia, the U.S. Navy sent three ships based in the Newport News area up the Atlantic coast to help with storm response. Hess Corporation suspended its oil terminal operations. A power failure shut down a fuel pipeline to Reagan National Airport in Arlington.
Like Ohio, the swing state of Virginia relies heavily on electronic voting machines that require electric power to tally a vote. It is uncertain whether paper ballots will be needed on Election Day.
North Carolina’s power outages, 126,000 at the peak of Sandy, had almost all been righted by Wednesday. Dow Jones newswires reported that Hess oil terminals in the southernmost states affected by Sandy, including North Carolina, operated normally throughout the storm.
Appalachian areas in western North Carolina had 7 to 24 inches of unrelenting snow. Four to eight inches of rain fell in the east. About six inches came down near Kitty Hawk, the windy beach where Orville and Wilbur Wright made the world’s first flight in an airplane in 1903.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina, long a graveyard for ships sunk as hurricanes break on or near Cape Hatteras, were lucky to escape the landfall of Hurricane Sandy (it occurred in New Jersey).
A naval tragedy occurred about 90 miles southeast of the cape (about 160 miles from the eye of the storm) when HMS Bounty, the 180-foot Tall Ship built in Nova Scotia in the early 1960s and featured in the films Mutiny on the Bounty and Pirates of the Caribbean, lost electric power, took on water and foundered in 40-mph winds, and sank in 20-foot sea swells.
U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters rescued 14 of the crew members alive and one deceased, and took all to their station in Elizabeth City. Captain Robin Walbridge is still missing, presumed lost at sea.
On a happier note, the 500 or so “Banker Ponies” of North Carolina, descendants of horses that came from Spain with early European explorers, weathered the storm well.
Snow attributed to Hurricane Sandy fell in higher elevations of Appalachian Kentucky.
The Sandy October snowfall reached Tennessee as well. Road access through one area in the Smoky Mountains was blocked by several feet of heavy, wet snow.
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