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Ernesto provides 'nice rain' to area

Ernesto provides 'nice rain' to area

September 02, 2006|by DON AINES

TRI-STATE - Schools were closed or let out early, disaster proclamations were issued and emergency management officials were preparing for flash flooding, but the Tri-State area as of Friday night had been spared of any serious consequences as the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto moved into the area.

"We don't have any reports of floods. Most of the rain has moved to the east, and the Panhandle will be in good shape," said Jimmy Gianato, director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"It's a nice rain, and it's soaking into the ground," said Gary Himes, Franklin County's hazardous materials coordinator. The county's emergency operations center had been partially activated in anticipation of the storm, and he was staying overnight to monitor the situation.

"Most of the real heavy stuff looks like it's going to the east of us," Himes said.

In the Chambersburg area, just .4 inches of rain had fallen by 10 p.m., local weather observer Jerry Ashway said.

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The figure was .43 inches in Waynesboro, Pa., at 10:15 p.m., weather observer Todd Toth said.

Jefferson County, W.Va., had about 1.5 inches of rain fall Friday between 7 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., said Darrell Penwell, the county's director of the Office of Emergency Management.

"It's just been steady most of the day. Real quiet and calm," Penwell said.

Earlier predictions that the Shenandoah River would crest at more than 17 feet by Sunday had been downgraded to a little more than 6 feet. The river's flood stage at Harpers Ferry is 13 1/2 feet, Penwell said.

In Washington County, a 911 dispatcher said there were no reports of flooding as of 10:30 p.m., and the emergency operations center had not been activated.

"It's going to be a very rainy night, but the good news is that the worst of the weather is going to be tonight and Saturday morning," said John Gresiak, a meteorologist with Accuweather. "During the course of the morning and the midday hours, it should let up."

Gresiak predicted the rains will end in the area by this afternoon, with final totals being between 2 and 4 inches. A few isolated areas could see as much as 6 inches, he said.

Wind gusts probably would range between 20 and 30 mph overnight as the center of what is left of Ernesto passes to the east of Hagerstown, Gresiak said. Sunday and Monday could bring some blue skies to brighten what is left of the Labor Day weekend, he said.

About 1,600 Allegheny Power customers lost service when a transformer blew in the Halfway area about 6:15 p.m., according to power company spokesman Allen Staggers. He said the outage might have been weather-related, but service was expected to be restored Friday night.

About 170 customers lost power in the Frederick, Md., area, but had their service restored Friday night, Staggers said.

While emergency officials might have been breathing a bit easier Friday night, local and state governments were taking no chances as the tropical storm moved up the East Coast.

Public schools in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia canceled classes Friday, and Washington County Public Schools students were let out an hour early.

Gov. Joe Manchin had declared a state of emergency in 13 counties, including those of the Eastern Panhandle, and announced that the National Guard and swift-water rescue teams were being prepositioned around the state to react to flash flooding. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell declared a disaster emergency in all 67 counties, putting the National Guard and state police on standby.

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