Published August 1973 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd West Virginia Has Weather for All It is a well known fact that West Virginia has one of the most irregular shapes of all the states. What may not be as well known is that it has weather equally as varied. Because of its elevation, which ranges from less than 250 feet above sea level to nearly 5,000 feet, West Virginia has summers and winters to suit all tastes. Generally, the state's weather is temperate- -seldom too hot, seldom ton cold. Summertime highs will range from 75 in the eastern mountains to 85 in the lower areas, with a few days approaching 100 degrees in the river valleys. In Bluefield, at around 2,600 feet, lemonade is served free on the streets if the mercury goes above 90, but it seldom does. And there, as elsewhere in the mountains, the humidity is pleasantly low. Winter minimums average from the upper twenties in the west to the upper teens in the mountains. About every other year the temperature may dip to zero over much of the state, or 10 to 15 below in the higher elevations. The coldest ever recorded was 37 below zero at Lewisburg in 1917, and the highest was 112 at Martinsburg in 1931-both rare extremes. Annual snowfall averages less than 20 inches along the Ohio River between Huntington and Parkersburg. But the high Alleghenies cast of Elkins may get more than 140 inches of snow a year. Average rainfall is likewise varied, ranging from a low of 35 inches in the Eastern Panhandle to more than 65 in the higher mountains. The National Weather Service's Charleston office describes West Virginia as often being a sort of "battleground" between warm, moist air coming up from the south and southwest and cold, dry air pushing down from the northwest. These atmospheric clashes produce the rain and snow. This precipitation, welcome for crops, wildlife, and recreation, can have the adverse effect of producing flash floods. All parts of the state have, upon occasion, experienced rainfall exceeding five inches in 24 hours. The heaviest recorded deluge was 19 inches, which fell on Rockport in Wood County in 1889. Up to 14 inches fell on parts of north-central West Virginia on June 24-25, 1950. But such extremes arc rare, and damaging windstorms even rarer. The Weather Service (with a caution probably born of long forecasting) finds our state's weather "quite favorable for human activity." West Virginians, proud of their state's fine climate, should find that a considerable understatement.