Peninsula area begins digging out from 5 to 15 inches of snow

The region began to dig out from under between 5 and 15 inches of snow Friday. The snowfall, which lasted from late Wednesday night to Thursday afternoon, was followed by freezing temperatures that will keep it on the ground through at least Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s going to be arctic cold,” said Wakefield-based meteorologist Mike Rusnak, and a wind chill advisory — values are expected to range from zero to minus-15 - is in effect until Saturday morning.

Friday afternoon, municipalities and the Virginia Department of Transportation were working to clear the roads, and will continue through the weekend given the frigid temperatures.

“If temperatures don’t get above freezing the snow won’t melt,” Rusnak said. “We don’t expect temperatures above freezing until Monday. The snow’s not going anywhere.”

Hampton Public Works crews worked overnight to clear mounds of snow and clear the city’s busiest roads, making significant progress, said Director Lynn Allsbrook. Mercury Boulevard, Hampton Roads Center Parkway, Armistead Avenue and Big Bethel Road and other major thoroughfares are in reasonably good condition, he added. City employees moved on to connector roads including East Pembroke and Powhatan Parkway Friday.

In Newport News, crews treated and plowed bridges, overpasses and main roads like Jefferson Avenue and Warwick Boulevard on Thursday and overnight. On Friday, they were supposed to plow small third-priority streets, like Marshall Avenue and Beech Drive.

According to the city, most small subdivision streets are not plowed.

Hampton police reported no overnight accidents, but several stuck or stranded vehicles. By Friday morning, state police had responded to 437 traffic crashes and 592 disabled cars over a 36-hour time frame across the commonwealth, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was closed for about nine hours starting early Thursday morning.

Experts emphasized staying off the roads if possible and making room for snow plows. Roads are expected to freeze overnight throughout the weekend.

The Virginia Department of Transportation plans on sending crews out throughout the weekend to continually plow roads, said spokeswoman Paula Miller. Interstates and major roads were in good shape, and VDOT had planned to finish plowing James City County and York County roads by the end of the day Friday, she said.

"We know there’s going to be refreezing as well so we’ll treat them with abrasives because of slick spots and potential for refreezing and keep an eye on tunnels, bridges, on ramps and off ramps," she said.

County crews were working to clear snow from Isle of Wight County’s fire and rescue stations and government buildings Thursday and Friday, county spokesman Don Robertson said.

“We’re not a major snow remover,” he said. “But we’ve got some tractors and a couple of trucks that we retrofitted with equipment for some snow removal.”

VDOT is responsible for plowing Isle of Wight County.

Like other municipalities, Isle of Wight County officials will decide whether to close their offices over the weekend. Schools and colleges across the region remained closed Friday and activities were canceled during the weekend. Christopher Newport University nd Thomas Nelson Community College are scheduled to begin the first day of classes Monday.

Despite sub-freezing temperatures and icy roads, some activities were back to normal Friday. The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry, which ran reduced service Thursday, was back on schedule with its two boats Friday, and Colonial Williamsburg opened again at noon Friday.

Several lawn service businesses sprung into action after the snowfall. Joanne Prassas of Coastal Lawn Service Inc. in the Williamsurg area said midday Friday the business's 10 snow removal workers had been working around the clock since Wednesday night for commercial clients. The business has two plows and a tractor, but Prassas said even her suppliers were running out of ice melt and she had to buy more.

Coastal Lawn completes its committed contract work first and then picks up additional work, she said.

"I like snow — it's profitable but it's hard work."

Sentara hospitals and emergency centers started preparing for the storm at the beginning of the week and continued around-the-clock services the entire week, said Mark Beck, vice president and nurse executive at Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton. He’s been the on-call administrator all week. To make sure physicians and staff members were able to show up to work, the CarePlex housed at least 60 people in-house Wednesday night, and about 30 Thursday night, he said.

“We can’t close the hospital, and from a patient safety standpoint, we have to have people show up for their shifts,” he said. He anticipated a spike in emergency room patients Friday after the roads became clear and people started shoveling and going outside, making them more prone to injury.

The Hampton Roads Ecumenical Center’s (H.E.L.P) winter shelter program A Nights Welcome stayed open to help homeless people. In Newport News, People Offering Resources Together (PORT) stayed open Thursday and Friday due to the snow and cold.

Many restaurants in the region closed Thursday, and a few remained closed Friday, but some with staff who lived nearby were open.

El Diablo Loco in Phoebus was open for lunch Thursday because employees lived nearby, but closed early because of icy conditions, said co-owner Gary McIntyre. An owner of the Barking Dog in Poquoson also picked up employees in a four-wheel drive vehicle and took them to work, where the restaurant was busy as usual for lunch, McIntyre said, and Kismet Bistro at 99 Main in Newport News opened for dinner.

The snow is a nuisance for restaurants as fewer people go out to eat and perishable supply needs to be managed, he said. Business is slower with snowfall and that also hurts employees who might be hourly or rely on tips, he said.

Employees being able to get safely to work determines whether the restaurants can open, McIntyee said. The restaurants will be open this weekend, he said.

Marker 20 in downtown Hampton didn't close because of snow and rarely closes, as it's a meeting place, said owner Carlyle Bland. He said the restaurant stayed open during Hurricane Isabel with generators.

The only problem with snow is the supply trucks don't like it, he said, adding he had to make a few trips to BJ's Wholesale Club in Hampton.

Packed snow also caused Marker's alarm to go off at 4 a.m. Thursday, waking nearby Bland who shoveled snow there throughout the day. His other downtown Hampton restaurants, Brown Chicken Brown Cow and Venture Kitchen & Bar closed Thursday and Friday, but will be open this weekend.

"We'll get all the downtown denizens because they're not going to be traveling so much," Bland said. "They'll go stir crazy."

Daily Press staff writers Jane Hammond, Pete Dujardin, Natalie Joseph, Reema Amin, Lisa Vernon Sparks, Mark St. John Erickson and Tara Bozick contributed to this report.

Mishkin can be reached by phone at 757-641-6669. Follow her on Twitter at @KateMishkin.

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