It’s not clear exactly how much snow could fall on the Peninsula this week, but the region’s getting the tools it needs to prepare for a storm.
That includes, for the cities of Newport News and Hampton, 5,300 tons of salt and sand, 15,000 gallons of brine, 10,000 tons of calcium chloride and 76 pieces of equipment to spread the materials.
Between 4 and 8 inches of snow are expected for southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina between Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Wakefield. A winter storm watch was issued, meaning there’s a good chance of snow, sleet or ice accumulation that could impact travel and make it hard to see while driving. A hazardous weather outlook also is in place Wednesday and Thursday.
That’s all because of low pressure coming off the coast, said Andrew Zimmerman, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wakefield. The snow will come from eastern North Carolina, up the Eastern Shore into southeast Virginia, likely starting as rain closer to the coast. Snow should be more wet near the coast and drier farther inland because of the moisture coming off the Atlantic Ocean, Zimmerman said. The western part of the state might not be affected at all.
“Looking over the next few days, this is the main snow event,” he said. “After that, the arctic air mass comes in, and it’ll be pretty dry.”
As of Tuesday evening, the forecast called for increasing clouds Wednesday afternoon with snow likely after 7 p.m. Lows will be in the low 20s Wednesday night. On Thursday, there’s a chance of snow before 10 a.m., with a slight chance between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The highs will be in the low 30s, and wind gusts could reach up to 29 mph.
On Tuesday morning, Newport News Public Works employees, clad in neon jumpsuits, hard hats and rain boots, worked to prepare snow removal equipment. The city has three anti-icing units that will apply 10,000 gallons of brine around the city to pre-treat the roads starting Tuesday. The city has 25 snowplows. Starting Wednesday, crews will work 12-hour shifts round-the-clock to pre-treat and treat the roads, according to Jason Calbert, administrator for the city’s street maintenance division.
The city prioritizes arterial roads, like Warwick Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue, before moving onto roads like J. Clyde Morris Boulevard and Harpersville Road, Calbert said.
He said the street maintenance division’s been keeping a close eye on the local forecast and communicating with the National Weather Service in Wakefield. This type of weather is to be expected this time of year, he said.
“We’ll be in good shape this year,” Calbert said.
Hampton’s roads are being pre-treated with a brine solution as well, and employees are closely watching the forecast, according to a news release from the city. It may take longer to clear the roads if temperatures continue to hover around freezing, the release warned. Because it’s heavily trafficked, Mercury Boulevard likely will be one of the first streets pre-treated and plowed, said Robin McCormick, spokeswoman for the city.
VDOT Hampton Roads started pre-treating interstates and county roads at 9 a.m. Tuesday, a news release said. The goal is to have state-maintained roads open within 48 hours after the storm ends. VDOT’s Hampton Roads district has 469 pieces of equipment to deal with the snow, including trucks with plows and front-end loaders and backhoes, the release said.
By Tuesday afternoon, sales had started to pick up at Ace Hardware in Hampton, said inventory manager Troye Gerard. Shovels, sleds and winter wear were going the quickest, he said. He didn’t expect the hardware store to run out any time soon.
“We’ve got tons, and more coming,” he said.
His advice: better to be overprepared than underprepared.
People slowly were trickling into Trader Joe’s in Newport News Tuesday afternoon, said David Washington, a manager at the grocery store. People weren’t flocking toward a particular item, but he noticed the store was much busier than it normally would be on a Tuesday.
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” he said when asked what people were buying. “Milk, eggs, bread, canned goods. Just like anywhere.”
Experts encouraged people to prepare an emergency kit with items including flashlights, batteries, prescription medicines and three days’ worth of water per person.
Make sure to keep space heaters away from items that might catch fire and turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel if snow or water is near electrical equipment. AAA Tidewater encouraged drivers to keep a winter weather driving kit in the car with items like jumper cables, a blanket and ice scraper, and to drive carefully by driving in cleared lanes and braking slowly. Bridges and overpasses might be especially slick.
Calbert urged drivers to make space on the road for the snowplows and other equipment.
“Give us space. We’re out there working for everyone to get the roads cleared,” he said.
Dominion Energy preemptively checked its system and doesn’t expect any load-related outages, spokeswoman Bonita Harris said. Still, customers should use energy wisely by sealing air leaks and duct works, changing furnace filters and lowering the thermostat to 68 degrees.
The Hampton Roads Ecumenical Lodging and Provisions is facilitating its winter shelter program A Nights Welcome, which provides homeless people with shelter, dinner and breakfast. This week, the shelter will be at St. Marks United Methodist Church at 99 East Mercury Blvd. from Wednesday until Sunday. Anyone who needs immediate help can call the Housing Crisis Hotline at 757-587-4202.
Like everyone else in the region, Calbert’s keeping a close eye on the forecast.
No matter what happens, he said, “we’ll be ready.”
Mishkin can be reached by phone at 757-641-6669. Follow her on Twitter at @KateMishkin.