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Storm Jonas dumps snow by the yard

By Staff | Feb 1, 2016

Storm Jonas walloped the Eastern Panhandle, and Shepherdstown specifically, pouring down more than three feet of snow and causing business as usual to come to a screeching halt. With weather forecasters promising blizzard conditions well before the mid-day start on Friday, most folks were able to get to the stores and stock up on supplies.

Those who were not able to stay happily indoors included the clean up crews locally and around the state who made their way onto the highways to treat for days prior to the snowfall and around the clock after it started.

Shepherdstown’s Public Works department cleaned the main streets of town, working around cars that were buried under drifting snow, allowing those who needed to be on the roads access to get around. The crews continued to work throughout the week opening up side streets throughout the town, much more rapidly than some of their neighboring communities.

That area of being tops was not only in the clean up, but in the snowfall totals as well as Shepherdstown received an official 40.5 inches of snow and recognition on national news broadcasts and even a BBC broadcast. Links to those news reports can be found on the Chronicle Facebook page.

Knowing that the storm was coming allowed county officials to prepare as well as the American Red Cross and the Jefferson County Animal Control. Shelters were established at Jefferson High School as well as Wildwood Middle School-a shelter that accepted animals as well as their human owners.

According to Brandon C. Vallee, AA/PIO/VC with Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management, no four-legged friends made it to the shelter.

Currently, Vallee said, a shelter to provide a respite from the storm for the homeless in the area, is operating at Asbury Methodist Church in Charles Town.

The Homeland Security and Emergency Management office activated their Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the start of the storm and will remain activated until its final conclusion, Vallee said Tuesday. He indicated that at the center, there were approximately 500 calls taken ranging from snow removal questions to needing medical assistance.

The West Virginia National Guard was activated and had six Community Assistance Teams (CAT) in the area. Teams consisted of two personnel and a humvee that was used for emergency transportation of individuals to such medical appointments as dialysis. Vallee shared that due to the need for an emergency procedure at Jefferson Medical Center, one CAT team transported the doctor and anesthesiologist to the hospital.

After the storm subsided, three teams left the area while the remaining three were in place through Friday.

Vallee shared that other calls coming in to the 911 Emergency Call center through Tuesday included 92 fire/EMS calls, 279 law enforcement calls and four calls for possible building collapse although none of those actually occurred.

Staffing in the EOC saw an average of seven people per shift, with many of those being volunteers who traveled to the Homeland offices in Bardane. Five individuals, including all of the staffers with the department, stayed around the clock at the facility and continue to do so during the remainder of their activation.

In the aftermath of the storm, Jefferson County Schools canceled school all week with hopes of returning on Monday. In an announcement put out to the public, these days off will now move the last day of school to June 8; however, there remains a possibility of a waiver from the state with regard to making up the days because the state was under a State of Emergency.

Snow plows continue to make their way onto secondary roads and into neighborhoods late in the week. Additional resources were sent from the Elkins District by the Department of Highways, Vallee shared Tuesday. The amount of snow was overwhelming for the equipment on hand, he said. In addition, the need to move the snow has caused extended delays in reaching some of the secondary and neighborhood streets.

The Operations Center has a list of contractors to assist homeowners with their plowing and shoveling needs. The EOC will give out contractors’ numbers on a rotation basis who have contacted us to say that they are interested in being put on the list. If you are interested in having a contractor remove snow from your driveway and sidewalks, please contact the Jefferson County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) hotline at 304-728-6345 or 304-725-7151.