Black ice, hazardous travel Friday morning, NWS warns

Daily Press staff

The snow is done falling, but below-freezing temperatures will likely cause hazardous conditions on the roadways Friday morning, the National Weather Service warns. 

Overnight and early morning temperatures in the 20s are expected to turn melted snow and slush from Thursday's storm into black ice, according to the statement. Freezing fog will also cause a light coating of ice on the roadways. 

"This will make for potentially hazardous travel into the Friday morning rush hour...especially on secondary and neighborhood roads...and bridges and overpasses," the advisory states. 

"If you encounter an icy patch...release the accelerator...and pump your brakes lightly to avoid skidding. Drive defensively and allow extra time to reach your destination. Avoid any sudden stops or accelerations" it states. 

Friday's forecast shows a high temperature of about 36 degrees, but temperatures will drop back down to a low of 20 tonight. Temperatures will slowly climb over the weekend into early next week. There is a chance for rain Sunday through Tuesday. 

 

Snow is day to play for some Peninsula residents, source of headaches for others

Thursday's snow meant a day to play for some Peninsula residents, but a source of headaches for others who had to dig themselves out.

In Newport News, the Evans family took advantage of the snow day to lounge around, play video games and have breakfast before heading outside for a snowball fight.

For 6-year-old Cameron, building a snowman was the best part of the day.

“I like (it),” she said.

However, after being out of school last week also for snow, not all was fun and games for Cameron, a first-grader at Denbigh Christian Academy.

“She had schoolwork,” said her father, Roger Evans. “The school gave her work to do.”

Work was also canceled for mom Jillainna too, an employee at La Petite Academy in Williamsburg.

“Personally, I love the snow,” she said.

Newport News resident Lori Weiner spent about an hour Thursday afternoon clearing snow from her car and prepared to clear it away from her son’s car next. A helpful neighbor with a shovel helped remove snow from the ground, too.

“We’ve got enough food and a little bit of firewood left,” she said. “We’re in good shape.”

Weiner, a former New York City resident, started her work to avoid having the snow ice over on her car, though she was a little frustrated as more flurries fell.

“Once I clear it off, I want it to stay off.”

Not only did residents have to dig themselves out of their streets, snowy roads have kept local and state police busy through the day.

In Newport News, crews have been working 12-hour shifts to treat and plow roads, focusing on bridges, overpasses and primary roads, according to city spokeswoman Kim Lee.

Currently, crews are using nine spreaders, 17 snow plows and three brine units to do that.

She said those roads are in good conditions, and crews will be looking to start working on third-priority roads.

Flurries continued through the afternoon on the Peninsula.

“There isn’t going to be any (more) accumulation,” said Wayne Albright, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield.

In fact, weather conditions through the next few hours may make driving a little easier. Though there are clouds, Albright said there should be enough sun to help melt some of the snow on the roads.

“The temperatures are a little above freezing, so that helps,” he said. “It should be improving conditions for rush hour this evening, at least in the main arteries.”

Most officials, however, have advised to stay off roads unless there is an emergency.

Officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation recommend that drivers stay alert with the snow and ice, obey posted speed limits, keep a distance from other vehicles and drive carefully on bridges and tunnels.

The National Weather Service in Wakefield said the Peninsula received 6-8 inches of snow overnight and Thursday morning.

"The true accumulation is over at this point," NWS meteorologist Jeff Orrock said at 10 a.m. "It's tapered off."

At 1 p.m., he said while even though there has been more snowfall, there hasn't been much more accumulation because of the higher temperatures, which are at or above freezing.

Meanwhile, Virginia has used up all of its snow removal budget, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said.

The Department of Transportation had $145.5 million allotted for snow removal and has gone through it. Funds will be diverted from other budgets so work can continue.

Earlier forecasts called for as high as 9-10 inches in some areas, but it looks pretty uniform across the Peninsula in the range of 6-8 inches, Orrock said. Some areas like snowdrifts could measure deeper.

As of 1:45 p.m., York County received reports of 7-9 inches, according to the snow inch counts reported to the National Weather Service online here. That amount was recorded at about noon.

James City saw 7-8 inches by 10 a.m. Smithfield got 6-8 inches by 8:30 a.m. with the latest report of 6.5 inches by noon. Poquoson had a report of 8.5 inches by 8:30 a.m. with no other reports.

Newport News had 7.5 inches by 10 a.m. and Hampton had 7-8 inches by noon. Williamsburg reported 7.5 inches by 11 a.m. Gloucester got 8 inches by 11:20 a.m.

The National Weather Service receives those reports from those trained to measure snowfall counts, Albright said.

How to measure snow

The public may report 10-14 inches but those are unlikely, Orrock said, adding snowfall must be measured in a way to avoid drift from wind, like doing it away from trees out in the open. Measuring on a flat surface is important, particularly as grass can add more than an inch.

Spotters also typically keep one board accumulating snow while repeatedly measuring and removing snowfall every few hours, Orrock said.

Snow removal costly for state

The state has blown through the Department of Transportation's $145.5 million snow removal budget, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said this morning.

That work will continue, though. The state will shift money from VDOT's overall maintenance budget.

"We're going to spend whatever it takes," McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe also said the state shifted snow removal resources Wednesday night from Northern Virginia into Hampton Roads, which got 6-8 inches of snow. He spent much of Wednesday in southwest Virginia, where heavy snowfall from the last week or so has caused a number of crisises.

The National Guard has been working there, and McAuliffe said he has activated another 60 guards men and women for the region. Among other things, heavy snow fall collapsed a food pantry in Wise County, ruining some 35,000 pounds of food, McAuliffe said.

The governor thanks state and local employees dealing with the weather across the state.

"They have been working their heart out," he said.

Snow Travel

All but one lane of U.S. 460 is back open after a tractor-trailer crash in Zuni closed the highway in both directions. 

The tractor-trailer lost control, ran into a pole and ruptured a fuel tank, spilling diesel fuel across the road, according to the Isle of Wight Sheriff's Office. The crash, which emergency services responded to shortly after 9 a.m., has completely closed both directions of the highway to allow crews to clear the truck and clean up the spilled fuel. 

Officials at the National Weather Service, Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia State and local police are urging motorists to avoid travel.

"Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous. Only travel in an emergency," the weather service warning states. 

If you must travel, carry water, food and a flashlight in case of an emergency, it states. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation sent out a similar message Thursday morning. 

"Motorists should expect slick and treacherous roads, especially on bridges, ramps and overpasses, and are advised to avoid or limit travel," a department news release states. 

Crews have been working since snow started falling around midnight to treat the roads with salt, and plows were sent out to clear accumulated snow, the release states.

Crews will continue to focus on interstates and primary roads and will shift to secondary roads when conditions improve.

"When approaching slow-moving equipment treating roads, slow down and give equipment operators the right of way." 

Since midnight Wednesday, police in Hampton have responded to three accidents, one with injuries, two without. They've also helped 49 disabled motorists, they said via Twitter.

Between midnight Wednesday and 4 p.m. Thursday, Virginia State Police received 358 calls for service and responded to 140 crashes in its Chesapeake region, which includes Hampton Roads. Of those crashes, 131 involved property damage, and eight of them caused injuries. They also assisted another 85 disabled vehicles and three other incidents deemed highway hazards.

Shovel snow before it freezes

This is a wetter snow than last week's snowfall because of the 30-33 degree temperatures, but freezing temperatures Thursday night and this weekend will mean it will harden, NWS meteorologist Tim Gingrich said. So, shovel Thursday if you plan on it.

Be careful along the coastal areas near the Chesapeake Bay, where winds have picked up to 20-30 mph, meteorologist Mike Rusnak said. Across the Peninsula, expect winds of about 10 mph with possible wind gusts of 20 mph, Gingrich said.

Thursday's forecast calls for a high temperature of about 32 degrees and a low of 24. 

High temperatures are expected to stay near freezing for the rest of the week, but temperatures should warm into the 40s by Sunday, according to the weather service. The forecast shows a 40 percent chance for a rain/snow mix Sunday night.

Flights

Newport News/Williamsburg International's morning flights were canceled Thursday, but incoming and departing flights were on schedule starting at 1 p.m., spokeswoman Jessica Wharton said.

"Our maintenance crews have been working in shifts all night to clear the runways and the ramps," Wharton said. "We always stay open during a situation like this."

The airport advises checking directly with the airline for weather-related flight delays or cancellations. Check Newport News flight statuses here.

Norfolk International Airport had 17 departures cancel before noon Thursday, according to spokesman Charles Braden. So far, 43 departures were still scheduled with some delays, but that's subject to change.

"Crews have been working overnight to keep the main runway open," Braden said.

Check Norfolk flight statuses here.

As of 9 a.m., Richmond International Airport had 37 flight cancellations although it received arriving flights as early as 5:30 a.m., according to a news release. While the morning flights were limited, expect improved schedules this afternoon. Roadways into the airport may be challenging.

Click here for flight status updates.

Snow Tuesday

Snowfall Wednesday night and Thursday morning is on top of accumulated snow that arrived unexpectedly Tuesday night. 

Tuesday brought the Peninsula more snow than initially predicted, making the evening commute difficult for many. 

Three inches of snow were recorded in Hampton Tuesday night, 2.5 in Poquoson and 1.5 in Smithfield, according to a document from the National Weather Service.

Virginia State Police troopers responded to 174 crashes - most only involving damaged vehicles - and 53 disabled vehicles in its Chesapeake region, which includes Hampton Roads, according to officials.

Officials in Newport News, Hampton, York and Gloucester said they had responded to various weather-related crashes or other mishaps, such as cars in ditches.

Staff writers Sarah Pawlowski, Tara Bozick, Travis Fain and Andrea Castillo contributed to this story.

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