The elevations and ruggedness drop near large rivers like the Ohio River or Shenandoah River. Though the relief is not high, the plateau region is extremely rugged in most areas. 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. 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 that is appreciated by native West Virginians, who refer to their home as Almost Heaven from the song, " Take Me Home, Country Roads " by John Denver.
The underlying rock strata are sandstone , shale , bituminous coal beds, and limestone laid down in a near-shore environment from sediments derived from mountains to the east, in a shallow inland sea on the west. Some beds illustrate a coastal swamp environment, some river delta, some shallow water.
Sea level rose and fell many times during the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian eras, giving a variety of rock strata. 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. In the Eastern Panhandle and the Ohio River Valley, temperatures are warm enough to see and grow subtropical plants such as southern magnolia Magnolia grandiflora , crepe myrtle , Albizia julibrissin , American sweetgum and even the occasional needle palm and sabal minor.
These plants do not thrive as well in other parts of the state. The eastern prickly pear grows well in many portions of the state. It is cooler in the mountains than in the lower sections of the state. Valleys in the east have lower rainfall because the Allegheny mountain ridges to the west create a partial rain shadow. Slightly more than half the rainfall occurs from April to September. Dense fogs are common in many valleys of the Kanawha section, especially the Tygart Valley.
West Virginia is also one of the cloudiest states in the nation, with the cities of Elkins and Beckley ranking 9th and 10th in the U. In addition to persistent cloudy skies caused by the damming of moisture by the Alleghenies, West Virginia also experiences some of the most frequent precipitation in the nation, with Snowshoe averaging nearly days a year with either rain or snow.
Snow usually lasts only a few days in the lower sections but may persist for weeks in the higher mountain areas.
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Severe weather is somewhat less prevalent in West Virginia than in most other eastern states, and it ranks among the least tornado-prone states east of the Rockies. In the same year, 1. As of , West Virginia has an estimated population of 1,,, which is an increase of 49, or 0. This includes a natural decrease since the last census of 3, people that is , births minus , deaths and an increase from net migration of 14, people into the state. West Virginia is the least populous southeastern state.
Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 3, people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 10, people. It also has the lowest percentage of residents that speak a language other than English in the home 2.
The five largest ancestry groups in West Virginia are: 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. Females made up approximately There were 20, births in Of these, 19, There were 22 births to American Indians 0.
Also, those in the Eastern Panhandle feel a connection with the Washington, D. 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. Births in table do not add up, because Hispanics are counted both by their ethnicity and by their race, giving a higher overall number. The largest denomination as of was the United Methodist Church with , members in 1, congregations. The Southern Baptist church had 44, members and congregations. The Churches of Christ had 22, members and congregations.
A survey conducted in by the Pew Research Center found that West Virginia was the 7th most "highly religious" state in the United States. The economy of West Virginia nominally would be the 62nd largest economy globally behind Iraq and ahead of Croatia according to World Bank projections,  and the 64th largest behind Iraq and ahead of Libya according to International Monetary Fund projections. The real GDP growth of the state in of.
While per capita income fell 2. Morgantown was ranked by Forbes as the 10 best small city in the nation to conduct business in The net corporate income tax rate is 6. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in West Virginia's economy grew twice as fast as the next fastest growing state East of the Mississippi River, ranking third alongside Wyoming and just behind North Dakota and Texas among the fastest growing states in the United States. Canaan Valley is popular for winter sports, Seneca Rocks is one of the premier rock climbing destinations in the eastern U.
In addition to such outdoor recreation opportunities, the state offers a number of historic and cultural attractions.
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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is a historic town situated at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. The Greenbrier hotel and resort , originally built in , has long been considered a premier hotel, frequented by numerous world leaders and U. For the 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 year. One of the major resources in West Virginia's economy is coal. As of , the coal industry accounted for 2 percent of state employment. Nearly all of 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.
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West Virginia personal income tax is based on federal adjusted gross income not taxable income , as modified by specific items in West Virginia law. Citizens are taxed within five income brackets, which range from 3. The state's consumer sales tax is levied at 6 percent on most products except for non-prepared foods.
West Virginia counties administer and collect property taxes , although property tax rates reflect levies for state government, county governments, county boards of education and municipalities. Counties may also impose a hotel occupancy tax on lodging places not located within the city limits of any municipality that levies such a tax. Municipalities may levy license and gross receipts taxes on businesses located within the city limits and a hotel occupancy tax on lodging places in the city.
Although the Department of Tax and Revenue plays a major role in the administration of this tax, less than one-half of 1 percent of the property tax collected goes to state government. The primary beneficiaries of the property tax are county boards of education. Property taxes are paid to the sheriff of each of the state's 55 counties.
Each county and municipality can impose its own rates of property taxation within the limits set by the West Virginia Constitution. The West Virginia legislature sets the rate of tax of county boards of education. This rate is used by all county boards of education statewide. However, the total tax rate for county boards of education may differ from county to county because of excess levies.
The Department of Tax and Revenue supervises and otherwise assists counties and municipalities in their work of assessment and tax rate determination. The total tax rate is a combination of the tax levies from four state taxing authorities: This total tax rate varies for each of the four classes of property, which consists of personal, real and intangible properties.
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Property is assessed according to its use, location and value as of July 1. WV Assessments has a free searchable database of West Virginia real estate tax assessments, covering current and past years. All property is reappraised every three years; annual adjustments are made to assessments for property with a change of value.
West Virginia does not impose an inheritance tax. Because of the phase-out of the federal estate tax credit, West Virginia's estate tax is not imposed on estates of persons who died on or after January 1, The largest private employers in West Virginia, as of March , were: On January 9, near Charleston, the state capital, a chemical spill occurred that contaminated the water supply of , people in nine West Virginia counties.
Personal income growth in West Virginia during was only 1. During —, about 21, babies per year were born in West Virginia, but over 3 years West Virginia had 3, more deaths than births. Overall, West Virginia citizens rated themselves as being more miserable than people in all other states — for 5 years running. Casey Foundation's National Index of Children's Progress ranked West Virginia 43rd in the nation for all kids, and last for white kids. Stephen Smith, the executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, said that poor employment prospects are to blame: United Health Foundation's "America's Health Rankings" for found that Americans are making considerable progress in key health measures.
West Virginia, however, ranked either last or second-to-last in 20 categories, including cancer, child immunization, diabetes, disabilities, drug deaths, teeth loss, low birth weight, missed work days due to health, prescription drug overdose, preventable hospitalizations, and senior clinical care.