Wednesday snow throws off school schedule again

Poquoson Elementary School students ran in the cold, blustery weather to their school buses around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, ready to get home before the snow started.

Buses were all on time and parents were ready to take their children home, despite Poquoson City Public Schools making the call Tuesday to have an early dismissal for all four of its schools.

The other seven Peninsula area school divisions — Gloucester, Hampton, Isle of Wight, Newport News, Mathews, Williamsburg-James City County and York — decided to cancel school for the day.

Snow began to fall in the Peninsula area Wednesday morning and was expected to taper off by midnight. About 1 to 3 inches were predicted by the National Weather Service. Snow began to stick to the roads and temperatures dropped just in time for the evening commute, creating slowdowns and icy conditions.

National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Scalora said that temperatures in the mid- to upper teens overnight will create slick roads. A high of 40 on Thursday should bring some thawing, but temperatures won't be above freezing until late morning.

The NWS Wakefield office had not released snowfall totals as of early Wednesday evening for any localities in the Peninsula area, which Scalora said is due either to not receiving any reports or totals being under 1 inch.

Newport News, Hampton, York County, Gloucester, Mathews, W-JCC, Isle of Wight and Poquoson had made the decision to cancel school Thursday.

Virginia Department of Transportation officials urged motorists to travel with extreme caution Thursday morning.

VDOT crews spent most of Wednesday afternoon treating interstates and roadways with salt and abrasives, officials said in a news release. Temperatures are likely to remain below freezing through the Thursday morning rush hour, creating potentially slick travel conditions, officials said.

Drivers are encouraged to travel at slower speeds and stay 100 feet back from VDOT equipment. Crews remained on duty throughout the night to treat road surfaces, overpasses, bridges and other hot spots in advance of the morning commute, the release states.

A Virginia State Police trooper was involved in a crash Wednesday on Interstate 64 in Newport News, caused by a motorist traveling at an unsafe speed for road conditions, according to spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya. The trooper was taken to Sentara Urgent Care with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening, she said.

No major incidents were reported by 7 p.m. by area dispatch centers and the state police.

Seven flights out of Norfolk International Airport were canceled Wednesday night, with another half-dozen delayed. Some went out as scheduled and remained on schedule. At Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, the last American Airlines flight of the day, to Charlotte at 7:49 p.m., was canceled, as well as 7:01 and 9:15 a.m. flights Thursday to Charlotte. A Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta was delayed from its original departure of 5:10 p.m. to 7:14 p.m, after initially being bumped to 6:14 p.m. Two early morning Thursday flights were still on time, according to the schedule.

As the weather impacted other parts of the country, including travel hubs in Atlanta and Charlotte, both airports encourage customers to check with the airline before heading out.

Other schedules Thursday were disrupted by Wednesday’s snowfall, with Christopher Newport University, Hampton University, Colonial Williamsburg and other institutions operating on delays. The snow comes nearly two weeks after the region received between 5 and 15 inches of snow Jan. 4, keeping schools closed for five days.

Getting in a day of school in Poquoson on Wednesday was possible because of the division’s small geographic footprint and small size — about 2,000 students — said executive director of operations Steve Pappas.

“Every school division labors about canceling school or calling off school. It’s really something that none of us want to do,” Pappas said. “No school division wants to do it, but again, because we’re small and we can really isolate weather impacts on our area with, I would say, more acuity, if you will, that it helps us on a few occasions, this being one of them. We’ve been able to not close.”

Pappas said that Poquoson’s makeup — and a lot of help from city staff — meant that when almost every other division remained closed last Wednesday due to the Jan. 4 snowstorm, Poquoson could open on a three-and-a-half-hour delay.

“Our public works director and road crews strategically attacked each section of road or bus stop that our Superintendent (Jennifer Parish) and other staff identified as having residual ice or snow,” he said. “The night before and the morning of, each of these areas received individual attention. Our small geographic size and our ability to inspect every bus stop along with our personal relationships with all city staff gives us a distinct advantage in trying times.”

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