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Williamsburg area tallies storm's cost

Jimmy LaRoue
Contact Reporterjlarouejr@vagazette.com

As temperatures rose above freezing Tuesday and snow and ice melted from roads following last week’s snowstorm, Williamsburg area emergency management officials continue to assess road conditions and tally up the cost of the response.

Officials said they must submit a cost estimate to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management by Thursday afternoon. Williamsburg public works crews have cleaned city streets in 12-hour shifts since the storm began overnight Jan. 3 into Jan. 4, while the Virginia Department of Transportation handled plowing in both James City and York counties.

In the meantime, Williamsburg, James City County and York County emergency crews have had numerous calls for bursting water pipes since Saturday, though none had specific numbers.

“Up to now, we’ve had quite a few calls for burst pipes,” said Williamsburg Fire Chief Pat Dent.

York County Fire Chief Stephen Kopczynski said the concern he has is people may try to thaw pipes on their own with open flame devices.

“I think people need to continue to be observant in the event they have a leak or that sort of thing,” Kopczynski said. “One way you can do it is to just see if you have flow through all your major faucets and water devices.”

Dent said Williamsburg roads were in good shape, noting some side streets had spotty ice patches and black ice earlier in the day Tuesday.

“Things for the city are kind of back to normal,” Dent said.

Dent said the colder temperatures during the snowstorm hampered the response to it.

“What complicated this storm is that we’re not accustomed to the extremely cold temperatures,” Dent said. “It made it harder getting things back to normal, but the city was prepared for it and dealt with it appropriately and was able to address the concerns of the community.”

While the 7 inches of snowfall did not break any records, two nights of frigid temperatures did set record lows at Williamsburg Jamestown Airport, according to National Weather Service data.

A low of 3 degrees on Jan. 6 broke the previous record of 7 degrees set in 1988, and the following day, the low of 1 degree broke a 58-year-old record of 12 degrees set in 1959.

Many businesses stayed closed Thursday and started to reopen Friday, while government offices around the region closed for two days and public schools stayed closed for five days.

“We would like nothing more than to reopen schools on Wednesday, but we do not believe we can transport students safely,” the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools division posted on its official Facebook and Twitter pages Tuesday evening. “Our closure decision is also based on concerns about the safety of our staff, parent and high school drivers.”

In most areas of James City and York counties, primary and secondary roads were clear of snow and ice Tuesday afternoon, though the region had black ice with temperatures near freezing overnight Monday and Tuesday morning. James City County Police closed Monticello Avenue near John Tyler Highway and Centerville Road for about two hours Tuesday morning due to black ice.

James City County emergency manager Sara Ruch said road conditions improved throughout Tuesday.

“The secondary roads have continued to improve,” Ruch said. “However, there remains on these roads some packed snow and ice and will continue to stay slick with slush despite the rising temperatures. And the neighborhood roads have improved throughout the day, but many have stayed packed with snow and ice.”

More melting will continue to take place over the coming days, as temperatures across the Williamsburg region climb, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service forecast calls for highs Wednesday in the upper 40s, and in the 60s Thursday and Friday, with a chance of rain Thursday through Saturday.

The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office responded to six accidents Tuesday morning, according to spokeswoman Shelley Ward. In James City County, police spokeswoman Stephanie Williams did not yet have a tally of accidents Tuesday due to the black ice, but said she was not aware of any serious accidents. Williamsburg Police spokesman Maj. Greg Riley reported no accidents Tuesday morning in the city.

Overall, Williamsburg area emergency management officials have been satisfied with the response from the Virginia Department of Transportation, and from their own staff. Ruch said she thought VDOT did a good job clearing James City County roads.

“We fared pretty well for the amount of snow we had,” Dent said.

LaRoue can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342, by email at jlarouejr@vagazette.com or on Twitter @jlaroue.

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