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Winter wake-up

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Traffic crawls along the snow-covered lanes on South Holliday Street in Strasburg. Tuesday’s sudden squalls surprised forecasters and residents alike. Rich Cooley/Daily

Tuesday's sudden snowfall took road crews, fire and rescue officials by surprise

By Candace Sipos -- csipos@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- The more than 2 inches of snowfall in the city and dusting in surrounding areas Tuesday surprised many people, including meteorologists, VDOT workers and local fire and rescue officials, who were all relying on imperfect weather predictions.

"Those were basically streamers of snow that came off of the Great Lakes," said Chris Strong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling. The storm resembled the type of localized hot spots normally experienced in northern locations such as Buffalo, N.Y., and Pennsylvania, he added.

Meteorologists expected to see a few flurries in the Winchester-Frederick County area, but having a couple of inches instead "makes a lot of difference," he said.
The heaviest snowfall in the area occurred in the city, where about 21⁄2 inches of snow was reported.

"All the rest of the reports from Frederick County were under an inch," he said, adding that there was a 40 percent chance of seeing another dusting Wednesday night, but nothing compared to Tuesday's sudden snowfall.

"I think that's going to be our last shot for a while," he said.

Roads remained slick and white for hours after the accumulation, partly because VDOT did not pre-treat them.

"We had the same weather forecast everybody else did," said Sandy Myers, Staunton District spokeswoman for VDOT. "We wouldn't pre-treat the roads for just a chance of flurries -- it's not going to help anything."

Even if VDOT would have known how much snow and ice would accumulate, the road temperatures were too cold Monday night for the chemicals to work, she added.

The surprise weather caused a string of crashes in the city and surrounding
counties, although no fatalities or serious injuries were reported.

"People just need to slow down," said Chester Lauck, emergency management specialist for the county, noting that most of the calls into the dispatch center were in relation to crashes.

"It came in quick yesterday," he said regarding the snow. "VDOT can only be but so many places at a time."

Because of the road conditions, officials reduced the response to "condition D" around 8 p.m. Monday, meaning only one company responds to a single scene at times to avoid having companies risk traveling long distances, according to Lauck.

Although the emergency management team only expected flurries, the team handled the situation well, he said.

Lynn Miller, emergency management coordinator for the city, agreed.

Lauck and Miller said their teams won't do anything different to prepare for this winter, noting that they believe they have good systems in place for such weather situations.
"We would utilize those plans and move forward [in the future]," he said.

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