West Virginia

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West Virginia

West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania to the north and east, Maryland to the east and northeast, Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, and Ohio to the northwest. West Virginia is the 10th-smallest state by area and ranks as the 12th-least populous state, with a population of 1,793,716 residents. The capital and largest city is Charleston.

Geography

Located in the Appalachian Mountain range, West Virginia covers an area of 24,229.76 square miles (62,754.8 km2), with 24,077.73 square miles (62,361.0 km2) of land and 152.03 square miles (393.8 km2) of water, making it the 41st-largest state in the United States. West Virginia borders Pennsylvania and Maryland in the northeast, Virginia in the southeast, Ohio in the northwest, and Kentucky in the southwest. Its longest border is with Virginia at 381 miles (613 km), followed by Ohio at 243 miles (391 km), Maryland at 174 miles (280 km), Pennsylvania at 118 miles (190 km), and Kentucky at 79 miles (127 km).

Geology and Terrain

West Virginia is located entirely within the Appalachian Region, and the state is almost entirely mountainous, giving reason to the nickname The Mountain State and the motto Montani Semper Liberi ("Mountaineers are always free"). The elevations and ruggedness drop near large rivers like the Ohio River or Shenandoah River. About 75% of the state is within the Cumberland Plateau and Allegheny Plateau regions. Though the relief is not high, the plateau region is extremely rugged in most areas. The average elevation of West Virginia is approximately 1,500 feet (460 m) above sea level, which is the highest of any U.S. state east of the Mississippi River.

On the eastern state line with Virginia, high peaks in the Monongahela National Forest region give rise to an island of colder climate and ecosystems similar to those of northern New England and eastern Canada. The highest point in the state is atop Spruce Knob, at 4,863 feet (1,482 m), and is covered in a boreal forest of dense spruce trees at altitudes above 4,000 feet (1,200 m). Spruce Knob lies within the Monongahela National Forest and is a part of the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. A total of six wilderness areas can also be found within the forest. Outside the forest to the south, the New River Gorge is a canyon 1,000 feet (300 m) deep, carved by the New River. The National Park Service manages a portion of the gorge and river that has been designated as the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.

Most of West Virginia lies within the Appalachian mixed mesophytic forests ecoregion, while the higher elevations along the eastern border and in the panhandle lie within the Appalachian-Blue Ridge forests. The native vegetation for most of the state was originally mixed hardwood forest of oak, chestnut, maple, beech, and white pine, with willow and American sycamore along the state's waterways. Many of the areas are rich in biodiversity and scenic beauty, a fact appreciated by native West Virginians, who refer to their home as Almost Heaven (from the song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver). Before the song, it was known as "The Cog State" (Coal, Oil, and Gas) or "The Mountain State".

Climate

The climate of West Virginia is generally a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa, except Dfb at the higher elevations) with warm to hot, humid summers and chilly winters, increasing in severity with elevation. Some southern highland areas also have a mountain temperate climate (Köppen Cfb) where winter temperatures are more moderate and summer temperatures are somewhat cooler. However, the weather is subject in all parts of the state to change. The hardiness zones range from zone 5b in the central Appalachian mountains to zone 7a in the warmest parts of the lowest elevations.

Average January temperatures range from around 26 °F (−4 °C) near the Cheat River to 41 °F (5 °C) along sections of the border with Kentucky. July averages range from 67 °F (19 °C) along the North Branch Potomac River to 76 °F (24 °C) in the western part of the state. It is cooler in the mountains than in the lower sections of the state. The highest recorded temperature in the state is 112 °F (44 °C) at Martinsburg on July 10, 1936, and the lowest recorded temperature in the state is −37 °F (−38 °C) at Lewisburg on December 30, 1917.

Major Cities

Originally, the state capital was Wheeling, from 1863 to 1870. It was then moved to Charleston, a more central city, from 1870 to 1875, when it returned to Wheeling. In 1885, the capitol burned down and it was moved back to Charleston that year, where a vote was held to determine the permanent capital between Charleston, Clarksburg, and Martinsburg. Charleston was selected, and it has remained the capital since.

Demographics

The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of West Virginia was 1,792,147 on July 1, 2018, a 3.28% decrease since the 2010 United States census. The center of population of West Virginia is located in Braxton County, in the town of Gassaway.

As of 2019, West Virginia has an estimated population of 1,792,147, which is a decrease of 10,025 (0.55%) from the prior year and a decrease of 47,162 (2.55%) since the previous census. This includes a natural decrease of 3,296 (108,292 births minus 111,588 deaths) and an increase from net migration of 14,209 into the state. West Virginia is the least populous southeastern state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 3,691, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 10,518.

The five largest ancestry groups in West Virginia are: German (18.9%), Irish (15.1%) American (12.9%), English (11.8%) and Italian (4.7%) In the 2000 census, people who identified their ethnicity as simply American made up 18.7% of the population. Large numbers of people of German ancestry are present in the northeastern counties of the state. People of English ancestry are present throughout the entire state. Many West Virginians who self-identify as Irish are actually Scots-Irish Protestants.

There were 20,928 births in 2006. Of these, 19,757 (94.40% of the births, 95.19% of the population) were to non-Hispanic whites. There were 22 births to American Indians (0.11% of the births and 0.54% of the population), 177 births to Asians (0.85% of the births and 0.68% of the population), 219 births to Hispanics (1.05% of the births and 0.88% of the population) and 753 births to blacks and others (3.60% of the births and 3.56% of the population).

The state’s Northern Panhandle, and North-Central region feel an affinity for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Also, those in the Eastern Panhandle feel a connection with the Washington, D.C. suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, and southern West Virginians often consider themselves Southerners. Finally, the towns and farms along the mid-Ohio River, which forms most of the state’s western border, have an appearance and culture somewhat resembling the Midwest.

Languages

In 2010 97.67% (1,697,042) of West Virginia residents aged 5 years and older spoke English as their primary language. 2.33% of residents spoke a mother language other than English.

Religion

Several surveys have been made in recent years, in 2008 by the American Religion Identity Survey, in 2010 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The Pew survey results admit to a 6.5% margin of error plus or minus, while the ARIS survey says “estimates are subject to larger sampling errors in states with small populations.” A characteristic of religion in Appalachian communities is the abundance of independent, non-affiliated churches, which “remain unnoted and uncounted in any census of church life in the United States”. This sometimes leads to the belief that these communities are “unchurched”.

The largest denomination as of 2010 was the United Methodist Church with 136,000 members in 1,200 congregations. The second-largest Protestant church was the American Baptist Churches USA with 88,000 members and 381 congregations. The Southern Baptist church had 44,000 members and 232 congregations. The Churches of Christ had 22,000 members and 287 congregations. The Presbyterian Church (USA) had 200 congregations and 20,000 members.

Economy

The economy of West Virginia nominally would be the 62nd largest economy globally behind Iraq and ahead of Croatia according to 2009 World Bank projections, and the 64th largest behind Iraq and ahead of Libya according to 2009 International Monetary Fund projections. The state has a projected nominal GSP of $63.34 billion in 2009 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis report of November 2010, and a real GSP of $55.04 billion. The real GDP growth of the state in 2009 of .7% was the 7th best in the country. West Virginia was one of only ten states in 2009 that grew economically.

While per capita income fell 2.6% nationally in 2009, West Virginia’s grew at 1.8%. Through the first half of 2010, exports from West Virginia topped $3 billion, growing 39.5% over the same period from the previous year and ahead of the national average by 15.7%.

Tourism

Tourism contributed $4.27 billion to the state's economy and employed 44,400 people in 2010, making it one of the state's largest industries. Many tourists, especially in the eastern mountains, are drawn to the region's notable opportunities for outdoor recreation. Canaan Valley is popular for winter sports, Seneca Rocks is one of the premier rock climbing destinations in the eastern U.S., the New River Gorge/Fayetteville area draws rock climbers as well as whitewater rafting enthusiasts, and the Monongahela National Forest is popular with hikers, backpackers, hunters, and anglers.

In addition to such outdoor recreation opportunities, the state offers a number of historic and cultural attractions. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is a historic town situated at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Harpers Ferry was the site of John Brown's 1859 raid on the U.S. Armory and Arsenal. Located at the approximate midpoint of the Appalachian Trail, Harpers Ferry is the base of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

West Virginia is the site of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which features the Green Bank Telescope. For the 1963 Centennial of the State, it hosted two high school graduate delegates from each of the 50 States at the National Youth Science Camp near Bartow, and has continued this tradition ever since. The main building of Weston State Hospital is the largest hand-cut sandstone building in the western hemisphere, second worldwide only to the Kremlin in Moscow. Tours of the building, which is a National Historic Landmark and part of the National Civil War Trail, are offered seasonally and by appointment year-round. West Virginia has numerous popular festivals throughout the

Resources

One of the major resources in West Virginia's economy is coal. According to the Energy Information Administration, West Virginia is a top coal producer in the United States, second only to Wyoming. West Virginia is located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Bed, which stretches from Tennessee north to New York in the middle of Appalachia.

As of 2017, the coal industry accounted for 2% of state employment. Nearly all the electricity generated in West Virginia is from coal-fired power plants. West Virginia produces a surplus of electricity and leads the Nation in net interstate electricity exports. Farming is also practiced in West Virginia, but on a limited basis because of the mountainous terrain over much of the state.

Green Energy

An assessment from 2012 estimated that West Virginia had the potential to generate 8,627 GWh/year from 2,772 MW of 100-meter wind turbines, and 60,000 GWh from 40,000 MW of photovoltaics, including 3,810 MW of rooftop photovoltaics. This was based on then-existing technologies and apparently was based on some assumed requirements for the economic performance of the respective resources.

Transportation

Highways form the backbone of transportation systems in West Virginia, with over 37,300 miles (60,000 km) of public roads in the state. Airports, railroads, and rivers complete the commercial transportation modes for West Virginia. Commercial air travel is facilitated by airports in Charleston, Huntington, Morgantown, Beckley, Lewisburg, Clarksburg, and Parkersburg. All but Charleston and Huntington are subsidized by the federal Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program. The cities of Charleston, Huntington, Beckley, Wheeling, Morgantown, Clarksburg, Parkersburg and Fairmont have bus-based public transit systems.

West Virginia is crossed by seven Interstate Highways. I-64 enters the state near White Sulphur Springs in the mountainous east, and exits for Kentucky in the west, near Huntington. I-77 enters from Virginia in the south, near Bluefield. It runs north past Parkersburg before it crosses into Ohio. I-64 and I-77 between Charleston and Beckley are merged as toll road known as the West Virginia Turnpike, which continues as I-77 alone from Beckley to Princeton. It was constructed beginning in 1952 as a two-lane road, but rebuilt beginning in 1974 to Interstate standards. Today almost nothing of the original construction remains. I-68’s western terminus is in Morgantown. From there it runs east

into Maryland. At the I-68 terminus in Morgantown, it meets I-79, which enters from Pennsylvania and runs through the state to its southern terminus in Charleston. I-70 briefly runs through West Virginia, crossing the northern panhandle through Wheeling, while I-470 is a bypass of Wheeling (making Wheeling among the smallest cities with an interstate bypass). I-81 also briefly runs in West Virginia through the Eastern Panhandle where it goes through Martinsburg.

Culture

Appalachian Music

West Virginia's folk heritage is a part of the Appalachian folk music tradition, and includes styles of fiddling, ballad singing, and other styles that draw on Scots-Irish music. Camp Washington-Carver, a Mountain Cultural Arts Center located at Clifftop in Fayette County, hosts an annual Appalachian String Band Festival. The Capitol Complex in Charleston hosts The Vandalia Gathering, where traditional Appalachian musicians compete in contests and play in impromptu jam sessions and evening concerts over the weekend. The Augusta Heritage Center sponsored by Davis & Elkins College in Elkins in Randolph County produces the annual Augusta Heritage Festival, which includes intensive week-long workshops in the summer that help preserve Appalachian heritage and traditions.

Classical Music

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1939, as the Charleston Civic Orchestra, before becoming the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in 1943. The first conductor was William R. Wiant, followed by the conductor Antonio Modarelli, who was written about in the November 7, 1949 Time Magazine for his composition of the River Saga, a six-section program piece about the Kanawha River according to the Charleston Gazette's November 6, 1999, photo essay, "Snapshots of the 20th Century". Before coming to Charleston, Modarelli had conducted the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra, according to the orchestra's website. The Pulitzer Prize-winning 20th-century composer George Crumb was born in Charleston and earned his bachelor's degree there before moving outside the state. There had also been a series of operatic-style concerts performed in Wheeling during mid-century as well.

Musical innovation

The West Virginia Cultural Center in Charleston is home to the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, which helps underwrite and coordinate a large number of musical activities. The center is also home to Mountain Stage, an internationally broadcast live-performance music radio program established in 1983 which is carried by many affiliates of National Public Radio. The program also travels to other venues in the state such as the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center in Morgantown.

The center hosts concerts sponsored by the Friends of Old Time Music and Dance, which brings an assortment of acoustic roots music to West Virginians. The center also hosts the West Virginia Dance Festival, which features classical and modern dance. Huntington's historic Keith-Albee Theatre, built by brothers A.B. and S.J. Hyman, was originally opened to the public on May 7, 1928, and hosts a variety of performing arts and music attractions. The theatre was eventually gifted to Marshall University and is currently going through renovation to restore it to its original splendor.

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