By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Jan. 3, 2018 | 4:00 p.m.
WAKEFIELD – Both Sussex and Surry County have been placed under a winter storm warning by the National Weather Service office out of nearby Wakefield as the region and much of the Eastern Seaboard prepares for a potent Nor’Easter to bring snow and a mixed bag of wintry precipitation from Florida to Maine.
According to National Weather Service meteorologists, a Winter Storm Warning is in effect for both counties, nearby Prince George and points south and east, generally along U.S. Route 460 east toward Hampton Roads and south along Interstate 95 and points eastward. Neighboring communities in the Tri-Cities and Dinwiddie County are under winter weather advisories due to the expected snowfall in the area.
In an advisory provided by the agency, meteorologists provide a timetable of impacts and when they would begin to affect the region. In their report, snowfall is expected to begin around much of the area during the evening hours of Wednesday into Thursday morning, most likely affecting roadways and placing school divisions on alert in regards to decisions on closing schools Thursday.
Based on their forecasts, the National Weather Service expects accumulations of two to three inches in areas along and east of the Interstate 95 corridor. The closer you travel to the coast, snowfall accumulations are expected to be higher with projections of six to ten inches in places, with a foot of snow possible near the coast and Chesapeake Bay areas.
Along with the snow, wind is expected to be part of the strong winter storm system as winds out of the NNW at speeds around 15 to 30 miles per hour are expected. Higher gusts nearing 50 miles per hour are expected closer to the Atlantic coastline.
With those winds and below-freezing temperatures, the weather services expects “prolonged periods of sub-freezing temperatures with wind chills [of] five to ten degrees in the afternoon and below-zero at night” lasting from Thursday night through Saturday.
Ahead of the storm, Surry County Public Schools canceled after-school programs Wednesday afternoon.
As the winter weather threat looms, Governor Terry McAuliffe, days from finishing his term as the commonwealth’s governor, issued what may be one of his last state of emergency declarations Wednesday afternoon. In it, he said he is “authorizing state agencies to assist local governments in responding to the significant winter storm that is expected to impact the Commonwealth over the next 24-48 hours.”
“The bitter cold that continues to plague the Commonwealth will be joined by a potentially significant winter storm which will blast Hampton Roads, the Northern Neck, Eastern Shore and other areas of Eastern Virginia with snowfall and blizzard-like conditions in some communities,” McAuliffe said Wednesday. “With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for the travel disruptions, power outages and other threats to health and safety that could arise during this significant weather event.”
In his declaration, he also went through how the Virginia Department of Transportation is preparing for the storm following last month’s winter weather system that served as a precursor to this upcoming storm.
“Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews have begun 24-hour operations and are pretreating roads where temperatures permit,” the Governor’s office said. “VDOT has more than 1,500 crew members and more than 1,400 pieces of equipment prepared to respond to the upcoming storm on each 12-hour shift. VDOT’s Fredericksburg, Culpeper and Northern Virginia Districts have pretreated roads in advance of the storm. Richmond and Hampton Roads Districts are pretreating roads [Wednesday].”
“VDOT has already taken measures to pre-treat roads and preposition equipment, crews and materials to treat roads in advance of the storm and will work throughout the storm to plow roads,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “Driving conditions during the storm are expected to be hazardous and motorists are urged to stay off the roads until the storm passes.”
As usual, VDOT’s first priority is safety, and crews will work around the clock until roads are passable. “Passable” means it is drivable with extreme caution, but may be snow-packed and may not be cleared curb-to-curb or to bare pavement. Crews may sand hills, curves and intersections to help with traction.
Finally, the Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring up to 150 additional personnel on state active duty and 30 vehicles for possible assistance with the state’s severe winter weather response operations. The guard plans to stage personnel at readiness centers in key locations across the Commonwealth in order to be ready to rapidly respond if needed. Potential missions for the guard include transportation through heavy snow, downed tree removal, debris reduction and distribution of food, water and other supplies.
As is common when storms like this approach the Commonwealth, McAuliffe and the Commonwealth’s leaders urge drivers to stay off the roads as the storm moves through tonight into Thursday morning.
“Overnight and through Thursday, the Virginia State Police Chesapeake and Richmond Divisions will have all available personnel ready to respond to emergency calls for service related to hazardous road conditions throughout the Eastern Shore, Hampton Roads, Middle Peninsula, Southside Virginia and the Metro-Richmond regions,” they said in a statement. “Residents in those areas should delay travel Thursday morning as the winter storm arrives in Virginia. If motorists need to report an emergency, dial #77 on your mobile phone.”
Below are some tips for you to stay safe during the expected winter storm:
What You Should Do:
- Virginians should keep a close watch on the local weather forecast and stay off roads during this weather event unless travel is absolutely necessary. In addition to slick roads, blowing snow could reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile at times in some areas. If you must travel, allow extra time for the trip, drive at a low speed and stay at a safe distance from other vehicles.
- If you encounter slow-moving equipment such as snow plows, slow down and give them the right of way.
- Download the free VDOT 511 app for updates on road conditions at: http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/511.asp. Or dial 5-1-1 from any phone for the latest travel conditions.
- Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter and is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car. Include items such as jumper cables, blankets, first aid kit, water, non-perishable food, cat litter or sand, shovel, flash light and batteries, ice scraper and cell phone charger.
- Check on elderly or homebound neighbors, family, and friends to ensure they are ready for this storm and service interruptions that may result.
- Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours in case roads are blocked and/or there are power outages.
- Bring pets inside from the cold.
- Have a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio and extra batteries for emergency information. Listen to local weather forecasts and instructions from local officials.
- Listen to local media or contact local government for the location and availability of local warming shelters if you need a place to come in out of the cold.
- If you need help, information or resources during the storm, call 2-1-1. Those with hearing impairments can call 711 for the Virginia Relay Center and then call 1-800-230-6977. Out of state or videophone users may also dial 1-800-230-6977 for assistance.
- If motorists need to report an emergency, dial #77 on your mobile phone.
For more information on the Commonwealth’s response efforts for winter weather or to find out how to keep your family safe, visithttp://www.vaemergency.gov.