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NWS: Blizzard warning issued for mountain areas in region

By Alex Bridges

Weather experts warned parts of Shenandoah County and areas around Skyline Drive could see snow as a result of the powerful storm sweeping through the area.

A blizzard warning issued at 2:16 p.m. remains in effect through 2 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. The warning covers elevations of 2,000 feet above sea level and higher, according to NWS meteorologist Steve Zubrick.

The warning marked a major change in the forecast, which earlier that afternoon had not call for blizzard conditions in Shenandoah County. The weather service had issued a flood warning through Monday night for Shenandoah, Warren, Frederick and Clarke counties and Winchester. Creeks and streams were flowing bank-full by Monday afternoon, according to Warren County Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie.

Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative reported that as of 7:58 p.m. Monday more than 1550 customers had lost power in Frederick County. The locality had received reports of fallen trees. SVEC also reported that 824 customers in Shenandoah County and three in Winchester had lost power.

At 8 p.m., Rappahannock Electric Cooperative reported 1,595 customers in Warren County had lost power. Also, 24 in Frederick County and 2 in Shenandoah County.

At 8 p.m., Dominion Power reported 2,358 customers in its Shenandoah/Western Piedmont area had lost power.

Greg Schoor, a meteorologist for the weather service in Sterling, said the Northern Shenandoah Valley would experience strong winds and heavier rains overnight.

"By the time it's all said and done you could have anywhere from 5-10 inches locally," Schoor said. "The highest locally will be from 8-10 inches. I think a good average will be 4-6 inches."

Strong winds and gusts are known to knock down trees, limbs and cause damage to homes and vehicles. The National Weather Service advises residents to stay indoors in lower-lying areas of their homes.

Winds and gusts also are known for knocking down power lines and causing outages.

"We shouldn't see a huge bump up until later on this evening when Sandy actually hits the New Jersey coast," Schoor said.

The forecast calls for winds to increase to 30-40 mph with gusts up to 50-60 mph, according to Schoor. The high winds will last through the night and into Tuesday morning when conditions should start to improve, according to Schoor. Rain should subside and winds will drop back to 20-30 mph, he said.

"It's gonna be slow," Schoor said.

Meteoroligists do not expect the Shenandoah River to flood because the majority of the rain should fall in areas not affecting the waterway. However, Schoor advised that the rainfall could cause streams and tributaries to flood.

"There's expected to be minor flooding just because rivers will rise in that area, but it's not going to come downstream from a higher source," Schoor said. "The brunt of this is going to be up toward the Baltimore area, that's where the heaviest rain will be and then it sort of tapers out from there.

"A lot of this rain is falling over the course of a 12- to 24-hour period, so it's stretched out pretty well to where everything's going to be a real slow rise and the thing will be to watch how rivers respond late [Tuesday] and even into Wednesday," Schoor added. "With a slow rise like that it does take a while for streams and creek to respond and all of a sudden it's not even raining, it's day-after and all of a sudden the rivers are a couple of feet where they should be."

Weather experts warn motorists to not cross flooded streams even as skies clear.

Low-water bridges, prevalent in the valley region, remain especially susceptible to flooding in the days after a major storm, according to Schoor.

"Those'll be the first to go, obviously, and even places that might not typically see it just because of how much rainfall they'll get over the 12-24 hours," Schoor said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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