The third time was the charm.
While forecasts called for heavy beatings from hurricanes Florence and Michael, the Williamsburg area missed the worst of those storms. It was the opposite situation Sunday, when a low-key forecast of light snow and rain turned into 4 to 8 inches of snow, which threw an unexpected wrench into the daily life of the Historic Triangle.
That initial forecast relied on cold air moving through the area relatively quickly. It stuck around instead.
“This was no doubt a challenging storm and at the end of the day the cold air remained in place across Williamsburg and never retreated inland until late,” said Jeff Orrock, chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Wakefield station, in an email.
As the storm moved over the Carolinas it pushed moisture to the north. And the Historic Triangle was right on the edge, as the lower Peninsula got rain while the Richmond area got even more snow than we did.
“The warm air was not far away as there was little to no snow as you traveled southeast down the Peninsula. We were expecting things to start as snow in Williamsburg and then transition during the morning to a wintry mix and rain,” Orrock said.
An initial forecast called for snow Sunday that would turn into rain later that afternoon. That rain didn’t come as expected. Sunday afternoon came and went and the snow still fell, not turning into rain until the evening.
Snowfall was heavier in the western part of James City, where some areas saw 6 to 8 inches of it. In the city and eastern James City, the snowfall amounted to 4 to 6 inches, according to preliminary data compiled by the National Weather Service. Williamsburg has an average annual snowfall of about 5 inches.
Businesses and local government offices got a slow start Monday, and Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools children got snow days Monday and Tuesday.
The storm knocked out power to more than 27,000 customers in Williamsburg and James City, Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Harris said.
Dominion crews found blown fuses, broken cross arms and downed wires during their damage assessments, and contractors from less affected areas of Virginia and from out-of-state were called in to assist, Harris said.
Just about a thousand customers were still without power in Williamsburg and James City Tuesday morning, according to Dominion’s online outage map.
Harris said that Dominion expected to restore power to all its customers left in the dark by the storm by 11 p.m. Tuesday night. The storm knocked out power for more than 100,000 customers across the state and northern North Carolina.
Virginia Department of Transportation crews had cleared interstate and primary roads by Monday afternoon, and then were able to shift their focus to clearing secondary roads and neighborhood streets, VDOT spokeswoman Lindsey LeGrand said in a statement.
Across the state, there were 1,177 traffic crashes between early Sunday morning and Monday morning related to the storm, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in an email Monday afternoon. There weren’t any reported deaths caused by traffic accidents.
James City Police Department responded to 26 traffic crashes between 7 a.m. Sunday and 2 p.m. Monday. Nobody died in those crashes, police spokeswoman Stephanie Williams-Ortery said.
In Williamsburg, the fire department responded to around 80 calls between Sunday and Monday, Williamsburg Fire Chief Pat Dent said.
“They were pretty much all related to tree limbs, arcing on power lines, power lines down or trees down,” Dent said. “There was no significant property damage reported, and no significant injuries for either civilians or first responders.”
So what’s next? As the final days of fall give way to the official start of winter, temperatures look like they’ll be on the higher side.
“Ironically, looking ahead, we will likely be moving into a milder pattern for the remainder of this month and into January,” Orrock said.
Wednesday is forecast to be a sunny day with a high temperature of 45 degrees and a low of around 32 degrees. Thursday is forecast to have a high of 48 degrees and a low temperature of around 37 degrees, according to a National Weather Service forecast Tuesday morning.
It could start to get rainy Friday. There’s a 80 percent chance of rain that night, and the high temperature is anticipated to be 57 degrees. Saturday will push 60 degrees, with a 50 percent chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
Staff writers Rodrigo Arriaza and Amelia Heymann contributed to this report.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_