CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Snow plows were out in parts of the southern Appalachian mountains Monday, preparing for as much as 3 feet of snow in higher elevations spawned by the merger of a winter storm with Hurricane Sandy.
The early snowfall could be a boon for the area's ski resorts, which have sometimes struggled to keep their slopes open with a warming climate.
Forecasters in West Virginia expanded a blizzard warning to at least 14 counties for high winds and heavy, wet snow. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency.
"We're not taking it lightly," Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Gene Tracy said. "We're preparing for the worst — power outages — and getting ready to cut trees if they block the roads."
National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Axford said the overwhelming majority of residents live in lower elevations where significantly less snow was expected. No significant power outages were reported Monday.
Highway crews embarked on snow-removal efforts in several areas, including along Interstates 64 and 77 in West Virginia. Schools were closed in at least 11 counties.
People at the Shop N Save supermarket in Terra Alta, W.Va., picked up bread, milk and cat food, but all laughed off the dire predictions they saw on TV, where forecasters didn't differentiate elevations.
Judy Sines, restocking shelves as a few last-minute shoppers trickled in, has lived on the mountaintop for more than 30 years.
"This is what it's like most winters," she said. "It comes like this all the time. All we can do is get prepared and hope for the best."
Lifelong resident Deane Foy wasn't worried.
"It's a lot of hype," she said. "My husband did put the plow on, in case we have to get out of the driveway. We have a generator, so this is life as usual for us."