By Katie Demeria
An ice storm expected to hit the Shenandoah Valley on Tuesday night is part of a large low pressure system moving across the entire country.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the area lasting from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 10 a.m. Wednesday for Shenandoah and Warren Counties. It was extended to 1 p.m. for Frederick County.
Low pressure system
The storm is part of a large system that moved across a portion of the country Tuesday, reaching the East Coast in the evening, according to NWS meteorologist Amy Bettwy.
"We expect precipitation to move in especially between 8 and 10 p.m.," Bettwy said Tuesday. "There's a chance of it starting at 7, but it's going to increase and really move into the region between 8 and 10 p.m."
Bettwy said the precipitation will likely start as a mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow, before becoming mostly freezing rain overnight.
"The freezing rain and ice accumulation is the reason it's a winter storm warning, because were expecting between a quarter and three tenths of an inch," she added.
With temperatures in the upper 20s overnight, untreated roads are likely to become slick, Bettwy said.
A NWS winter storm message issued Tuesday notes, "Travel will be dangerous during this time, including the Wednesday morning commute."
Temperatures are going to increase Wednesday, reaching into 40 degrees. Thursday and Friday will be seasonably cool, Bettwy added, with highs into the mid- to upper 30s.
The area may see another system move in later this week and into the weekend, Bettwy said. Some accumulation is possible.
Virginia Department of Transportation day crews treated the roads Tuesday and then the night crews monitored conditions overnight, according to Sandy Myers of VDOT.
"We will continue to have crews out throughout tonight and into the morning," Myers said Tuesday.
Crews will concentrate on ramps, she added, and will apply anti-icing treatment to prevent them from becoming too slick.
According to the VDOT www.511virginia.org website, several secondary roads throughout Shenandoah and Warren Counties were closed Tuesday due to flooding.
Myers said VDOT closes roads when standing water makes them too dangerous for travelers.
"It's really just a matter of waiting for Mother Nature to take her course and for the water to recede," she said.
Local power cooperatives are preparing for the ice storm, as well.
Mike Aulgur with Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative said SVEC has crews stationed throughout the northern Shenandoah Valley in preparation for the storm.
"We've brought crews up from our southern district where it's not supposed to be as bad, so they are stationed throughout our service territory," Aulgur said. "We also have vendors from other cooperatives on call in case we need them, which is a big help."
Ice, Aulgur said, has the potential to cause more damage to power lines than other forms of precipitation like snow or rain.
"When we talk about ice, really we're talking about additional weight," he said. "When we get half an inch of ice on a line, even a small breeze can make a huge difference."
Ann Lewis of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative encouraged residents to prepare themselves for any possible outages by keeping extra supplies in their homes and calling their cooperatives if they lose power.
She and Aulgur both warned against approaching downed power lines.
"Always assume downed power lines are active, either call 911 or call the power company," Lewis said. "It can be very dangerous."
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org