Dangerous wind chills on Peninsula; advisory in effect through Friday morning

If you're spending any time outside Thursday or Friday morning, bundle up and make sure to keep your fingers and ears covered.

The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory that will remain in effect for the area through noon Friday. 

"A wind chill advisory means that very cold air and strong winds will combine to generate low wind chills," the advisory states. 

"This will result in frostbite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken. If you must venture outdoors...make sure you wear a hat and gloves." 

The Arctic front will drop temperatures through the rest of the work week and prevent any accumulated snow and ice from thawing.

Thursday's forecast calls for a high temperature of just 21 degrees and a low of 8 degrees tonight. Wind speeds could be up to 18 mph with gusts as high as 28 mph. Wind chills could drop to negative 2 degrees today and negative 10 tonight. 

Temperatures Friday will be about the same, but the winds will slow some. Wind chills could get as low as negative 8 degrees. 

Warmer weather ahead

Saturday will likely bring a snow and sleet mix, which will transition into rain at some point during the day, according to Lyle Alexander, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Wakefield.

The rain is expected to continue into Sunday.

“We’re expecting some rain that day,” Alexander said. “That should help the melting process.”

Snow in Hampton Roads

The snow gave many Peninsula residents a break from work and school Tuesday, but for Jonny Norris, who works at the Hidenwood post office in Newport News, things continued as normal.

In the morning he started his mail route, which covers Oyster Point, J. Clyde Morris Boulevard and Warwick Boulevard, as usual.

“Rain, sleet or snow, the mail must go,” he said while sorting items into mailboxes at Chesapeake Bay apartments later in the afternoon.

Between 4 to 6 inches of snow lay on the ground by Tuesday morning, with Hampton, Newport News and Williamsburg on the high end, according to the National Weather Service.

The heavy snow kept others busy, like Mike Wilson, who owns EMG Contracting. He started work at 4:30 a.m. clearing parking lots for local businesses in the Oyster Point section of Newport News.

“We were hoping for a good storm, and it came,” said Wilson, who took a break from clearing snow in the Fazoli’s parking lot.

Crews with the Virginia Department of Transportation worked Monday night and into Tuesday morning clearing roads.

VDOT sent 46 trucks to clear interstates on the Peninsula Tuesday morning. Hampton Public Works crews also worked overnight Monday and into Tuesday to clear roads.

Tuesday afternoon, Newport News was using nine spreaders, 15 plows and three brine units to clear main and secondary roads, and planned to work through the night.

Those who did get on the road kept state troopers busy. Virginia State Police said they had received more than 3,300 calls for service statewide between 4 p.m. Monday and noon Tuesday.

Of those calls, 747 came from the Chesapeake division, which covers Hampton Roads. Among those calls were 283 traffic crashes and 231 disabled vehicles.

Two deaths were also reported due to accidents, one each in Loudoun and Wythe counties, state police said.

Castillo can be reached by phone at 757-247-4635.

----

From Tuesday night

Many are staying off the roads on the Peninsula, though the snow is still causing problems for people who are trying to get around.

Since 3 p.m. Monday, Hampton police have responded to 52 car accidents—16 of those involving injuries — and four hit-and-run incidents. They have also responded to 214 public assistance calls, according to the Hampton Police Division’s Facebook page.

Newport News are also at the scene of a car accident at Bland Boulevard and Chatham Avenue, dispatchers said.

The snow has caused other issues, too—Hampton police said the awning of a BP gas station in the 900 block of LaSalle Avenue collapsed because of it.

By early afternoon Tuesday, local hospitals were reporting "business as usual" at their emergency departments across the Peninsula. The Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News had seen patients that had fallen, and others in a car accident, but "most patients have been treated and released," reported spokesman Peter Glagola.

Likewise Bon Secours and Sentara both reported nothing out of the ordinary, and no increase in weather-related conditions. Some employees sheltered overnight at Sentara's hospitals in order to be at work on time in the morning, said Dale Gauding, health system spokesman.

The sleet before dawn made things really tough for the Newport News city crews trying to clear snow, said City Manager Jim Bourey.

It basically seals off the snow – sleet forms a crust of ice that makes it just that  much more difficult for a plow to push snow out of the way. It also keeps brine – the liquid crews spray to speed up melting – away from the snow.

Drifting snow also made the work go slowly, he said.

On Tuesday, crews in Newport News and Hampton focused on clearing main streets.  They often had to go back over streets they’d already plowed once.

In Newport News, they started with the hills, bridges and underpasses that normally are the first areas to freeze.

Next come arterial and major collector streets (that’s traffic engineer talk for the main through-routes and the biggest streets feeding into them – think Jefferson Avenue for an example of the first, Briarfield Road for 50th Street as examples of the second).

Newport News city workers were on 12 hour shifts, while some equipment breakdowns kept city mechanics busy, too.

Hampton deployed about 35 trucks.

In Mathews County, main roads are looking fairly clear but secondary and back roads still have issues with covering snow and ice that will refreeze again tonight, said Sheriff Mark Barrick.

Power outages were limited and are being addressed, said Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman Alison Kaufmann.

"Our hardest hit area was North Carolina, and we have about 2,700 customers in that area still without power," Kaufman said. "We have about 400 customers in Hampton Roads experiencing power outages, some due to cold temperatures and also due to accumulation of ice on trees bringing down some power lines.

"For us the system held up well, but we are experiencing some outages and we’re fully staffed as we need to respond."

Earlier:

The worst of the snow is over, according to the National Weather Service.

With between 3 and 6 inches of snow reported for the region overnight, the winter storm warning currently in effect for the area will last until noon and the snow won't be melting off any time soon.

In Newport News and Hampton, the National Weather Service registered reports of snow as deep as 6 inches. Smithfield saw 5.5 inches and York County saw 4 inches. 

According to meteorologis Eric Seymour with the National Weather Service Forecasting Station in Wakfield, temperatures are expected to hover in the 20's throughout the day with windchill figures in the teens.

“We’ll get a little bit of breather tomorrow, maybe getting up to 34 or 35, but we get a blast of cold air with low temperatures to end the week," Seymour said.

Temperatures will get just above freezing on Wednesday before another system moves in from the Great Lakes area, which could lead to sub-zero lows on Thursday and highs in the teens. 

Hampton Roads is still seeing a bit of mixed precipitation now, Syemour said, but Hampton Roads should be free of any precipitation by mid-day Tuesday.

Schools and municipal offices were closed throughout the Peninsula Tuesday and transportation was a mess all over after the snow came down. A train headed for Yorktown derailed and burst into flames in West Virginia on Monday. 

On Tuesday morning, many flights into and out of Hampton Roads airports had been cancelled or delayed. 

In Newport News, a jackknifed tractor-trailer had all traffic on eastbound I-64 stopped around 5:45 a.m. and the Virginia Department of Transportation continues to warn drivers of icy conditions on roads and bridges. If there's any way you can stay off the roads today, VDOT says stay home. 

Buses are operating on a regular schedule Tuesday, but delays are expected, according to Hampton Roads Transit.

---

From Monday Night:

Snow still falling, will continue through early Tuesday; freezing temperatures expected all week

Parts of Hampton Roads have received 3 inches of snow, and more is expected to fall through the early hours Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

After that "it'll be tapering off," said National Weather Service meteorologist Lyle Alexander. "Maybe some flurries."

The area remains under a winter storm warning, which is in effect until noon Tuesday, officials said.

Snow could change to a snow/sleet mix between 1 and 4 a.m. Tuesday morning and then then turn back into snow. The snowfall is expected to taper off by 7 a.m. Tuesday, according to the weather service. 

Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency for Virginia Monday afternoon, according to a tweet sent from the governor's office.

Officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation have set up a modified Area Command Center at its Transportation Operation Center on Reon Drive in Virginia Beach to monitor road conditions, according to a news release.

VDOT crews applied salt to roads to melt snow, focusing on interstates and primary roads first, then on secondary roads. Crews also pretreated roads on Sunday and Monday.

“Motorists are advised to delay travel during winter weather,” VDOT officials said in the release Monday. “If travel is necessary, use extreme caution.”

Dispatchers in several Peninsula municipalities are reported multiple accidents Monday afternoon and evening. Virginia State Police responded to about 1,000 calls for service between 4 and 8 p.m., responding to 380 crashes and 191 disabled vehicles, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a news release. Troopers responded to another 120 accidents by 8:30 p.m. In the state police’s Chesapeake division, which includes Hampton Roads, troopers responded to 80 crashes, 25 disabled vehicles and 168 total calls for service.

The snow is likely to stay on the ground as temperatures remain near or below freezing throughout the week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the highs will barely reach the mid-30s, and it'll be even colder Thursday.

There is a slight chance for more snow on Wednesday.

---

From Monday morning:

Peninsula prepares for snow

Doreen Lawrence left Ace Peninsula Hardware on Sunday with two circular sleds and a snow shovel in anticipation of Monday's forecast.

"I'm using the sled, and my husband is using the shovel," she told the store's manager.

The Warwick Boulevard store was busy Sunday with customers buying ice melt, heaters, propane, firewood and pipe insulation.

The Virginia Department of Transportation started prepping the roads throughout the region Sunday night, according to a news release. Interstates and major highways were treated with a salt brine to prevent ice from forming.

The department warns drivers to allow extra time during their commute Monday and into Tuesday and to watch for ice, especially on ramps, bridges, overpasses, hills and curves, according to the statement.

"Crews will be on standby Monday to respond to changing road conditions, as well as to work with utility companies to remove downed trees or repair power lines," the statement said.

About 160,000 Dominion Virginia Power customers experienced outages Saturday night and Sunday in the strong winds that blew through the area, according to Bonita Harris, spokeswoman for the company. By Sunday evening, most had power restored.

Lawrence said she is looking forward to the first powder of the year. But just the one snowfall is enough, she said.

"I like one good snow, and then I'm done," she said. "Everyone is all excited and gets out in the first snow. The second snow, we're tired of it."

Employees at the hardware store said they expect it to be even busier Monday as people rush to by supplies at the last minute. A manager said additional sleds, ice melt, shovels, windshield scrappers and heaters had been ordered.

Rock Moeslein, another customer shopping on Sunday, also left with some winter weather essentials for his home, including bird feed.

"They are seed eaters," said Moeslein, who used to work at the Virginia Living Museum and other wildlife preserves. "Birds will have trouble finding food in the winter weather."

Reporters Frances Hubbard and Sarah J. Pawlowski contributed. Rockett can be reached by phone at 757-247-4942.

Winter weather tips for your home:

Keep the house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the inside walls from freezing

Keep faucets dripping to prevent pipes from freezing. Open cabinets to allow warm air to reach the pipes and consider covering with insulation. Remove garden hoses from outdoor spigots.

If pipes do freeze, don't wait for them to burst. Take measures to safely thaw them immediately, or call a plumber for assistance. If pipes burst, first turn off the water and then mop up spills.

If your garage is attached to your house, keep the garage doors closed. The door leading to the house is probably not as well-insulated as an exterior door.

If burning firewood, use a humidifier to keep a home from becoming too dry

Keep heaters away from flammable objects such as window curtains and turn off when leaving the room.

Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter with the following tips:

Properly lubricate door locks that may be prone to freezing

Clear the snow and ice from your vehicle's roof, hood and trunk and especially from the windows, mirrors and lights.

Always wear your seat belt.

Leave a few minutes early.

Start out slowly in the lowest gear recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer. Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges.

Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road.

Don't pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would emergency response vehicles.

Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car.

Information provided by Allstate, Ace Hardware, VDOT, National Weather Service

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette
32°