ATHENS COUNTY — The National Weather Service has good news and bad news for Athens County.
The good news: It’s likely to be a white Christmas for those who celebrate the holiday, as a cold front arriving early Friday morning will bring 1 to 2 inches of snow. The bad news: High winds and plummeting temperatures could create dangerously icy and frigid conditions.
In the midst of precipitation, temperatures in Athens County are currently forecast to drop more than 20 degrees in six hours Friday morning—from 42 degrees at midnight to 19 degrees at 6 a.m, according to the National Weather Service office in Wilmington, WV. The temperature will continue to fall, reaching an expected low of 6 degrees later in the morning, with hazardous travel conditions expected as rain freezes and becomes covered in snow on roadways.
Cold temperatures and holiday travel
Cold temperatures pose a danger to residents. Lows are forecast in the single digits from Friday through Sunday, creeping up to only 13 degrees Monday. Temperatures will combine with high winds, especially on Friday and Saturday, to produce wind chills as low as -14 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Don Gossel, director of the Athens County Emergency Management Agency, said to stay out of the cold, while recognizing people will travel for the holidays. Gossel said to avoid traveling on Friday especially, but said roads are expected to be in fine condition on subsequent days.
Still, the cold creates its own travel risk, especially in the event of an accident or a car breaking down on the road. Gossel encouraged those traveling to bring an extra layer of clothing with them in the event that they need to reach help or stay warm in their car.
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Power outages possible
The rapid freeze will cause surfaces wet with rain to ice over, including power lines. Combined with high winds, these conditions create a risk of power outages.
Gossel encouraged residents to check in with neighbors if they experience a power outage, as outages can sometimes be isolated and residents may be able to stay warm within their own neighborhood. On the flip side, Gossel said checking on neighbors who are more vulnerable—especially people who are elderly or have disabilities—is the best way to protect fellow community members who may not be able to reach help they need.
Athens County EMA is working to prepare local governments and first responders for the possibility of more widespread outages as well, Gossel said. The county and some volunteer fire departments will host warming stations if outages are widespread. The Athens Community Center and fire departments in Coolville, Waterloo, Nelsonville, Albany, Glouster, Jacksonville and Ames all have backup generators and can serve as warming stations, Gossel said (though stations in Richland, York and Rome do not have backup generators). Residents should not assume these warming stations are open if their power goes out, Gossel said, so he encouraged people to contact neighbors and check social media for updates from the Athens County EMA and their local fire departments.
Warming stations are intended to keep community members out of the elements during a power outage and are not necessarily intended as overnight shelters. However, residents may stay as long as they need, Gossel said.
Gossel reiterated that the best way of keeping the community safe is old school: “Check on your neighbors.”
Additional reporting by Corinne Colbert
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