CHARLESTON - A cold snap prompted a West Virginia ski resort to shut its slopes Tuesday, broke a century-old temperature record in at least one city and public school students in all 55 counties were told to stay home on perhaps the most frigid day in their lifetimes.
Among the cities reporting record lows included Wheeling at minus 10, Beckley at minus 9 and Morgantown at minus 7. Beckley broke a mark that had stood since 1912.
Beckley, Parkersburg (6 below), Huntington (4 below) and Charleston (3 below) were among the cities to have their coldest readings for any date since Feb. 5, 1996.
The arctic front knocked out power to thousands of customers. About 3,700 FirstEnergy customers and 1,800 Appalachian Power customers in West Virginia remained without service Tuesday afternoon.
At the federal courthouse in Clarksburg, workers removed carpeting and furniture damaged by ruptured water pipes that had frozen in an air-handling system, flooding the offices of Judge Irene Keeley and Magistrate John Kaull on Monday.
Although power-grid operator PJM Interconnection asked users in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South to conserve energy, Appalachian Power vice president of distribution operations Phil Wright said Tuesday the request wasn't mandatory for the company's 1 million customers in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee.
"Voluntarily conserving electricity can help ensure adequate power supplies for everyone and lessens the likelihood that service will be interrupted," Wright said.
The National Weather Service said the morning low at Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Pocahontas County dipped to 20 below zero, but that didn't stop skiers and snowboarders from taking to the slopes by midday.
There was no such activity at Canaan Valley Ski Resort in Davis, which closed its slopes due to dangerous conditions, said West Virginia Ski Areas Association spokesman Joe Stevens.
Canaan ski instructor Bill Smith said the combination of 18-below-zero readings and high winds made it feel like 70 below overnight. Readings had rebounded to 4 below by midafternoon.
"The cold wasn't all that bad," Smith said. "It was the wind."
Smith, who's been a professional skier for 35 years and also runs the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he believed the last time the resort shut down its slopes was in the 1980s.
"It's hard on the employees as well as the guests," Smith said. "I think it's a good move instead of taking a chance."
The slopes at nearby Timberline Ski Resort were open, as were those at Winterplace Ski Resort in southern West Virginia, where Tom Wagner wore three layers of clothing as he made the rounds as head of ski patrol amid readings that bottomed out at 8 below.
"Anytime it's a day to ski, it's a great day," Wagner said.
Wagner said skiers and snowboarders played it smart, too. He hadn't seen problems with frostbitten clients - or co-workers.
"Everyone I saw was layered up," he said. "We'll probably migrate inside a little bit more than normal today. Just like everyone else, we've got to warm up. It's one of those crisp, cold winter days where you can feel the weather out there. If you've got some exposed skin, you cover that up and you just have a great time."
A statewide wind chill warning expired Tuesday afternoon and temperatures in parts of the state were expected to rebound to the lower 50s by Friday.