Governor declares emergency ahead of 'high impact' storm
By Katie Demeria
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency for Virginia in anticipation for up to a foot of wet, heavy snow in some areas of the commonwealth.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather warning for a majority of the commonwealth scheduled to last from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 6 p.m. Thursday evening.
In a news release, McAuliffe urged Virginians to prepare for the storm. The declaration of emergency authorizes state agencies to assist local governments in their storm response.
Up to a foot of snow predicted
According to NWS meteorologist Amy Bettwy, the eastern side of the Shenandoah Valley could see 8-10 inches of snow, while the western side could get 10-14 inches.
"It's a big storm system, it's something the models have picked up for a while," she said. "It will have a high impact."
The system is coming in from the south, Bettwy continued. Because it is originating in the Gulf of Mexico, it has the potential to pick up extra moisture as it moves up the coast.
The snow likely will be wet and heavy, she added.
Temperatures Wednesday will fall into the upper 20s and lower 30s, and on Thursday they will hover just around freezing at 31 or 32 degrees.
Starting Wednesday evening, Bettwy said the precipitation will quickly become fairly heavy.
Wind may also play a factor into the storm, according to the NWS winter storm message, with gusts reaching up to 30 mph.
The message stated travel may be dangerous Wednesday night and Thursday, and the heavy, wet snow could result in power outages.
The Virginia Department of Transportation began applying anti-icing to interstate and most primary roads Tuesday, according to Sandy Myers of VDOT.
Crews will be out all day Wednesday and Thursday with plows as well, she added. Subcontracted crews will also be prepared for the storm.
Myers cautioned area residents against traveling, as the sheer volume and heavy, wet consistency of the precipitation could hinder VDOT's efforts.
"It may take a couple of passes to totally clear a road, so a lot of folks will have to have some patience," she said. "It may take a day or two to get to some back neighborhoods. It depends on the type and amount of snow we get."
Local power cooperatives are encouraging their members to take necessary precautions for the storm in case of power outages.
Wet, heavy snow is more likely to weigh down trees and cause damage to power lines, according to Ann Lewis of Rappahannock Power Cooperative.
Mike Aulgur, of Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, said SVEC has reached out to sister cooperatives.
"We are making an effort to make sure we have resources at our disposal should they be required, and we have crews staged accordingly," Aulgur said.
Lewis urged members not to approach downed power lines, and to report any outages to REC. Aulgur stated the importance of preparing for the storm ahead of time.
In a news release, McAuliffe encouraged residents to be prepared to stay indoors for up to 72 hours in cases of blocked roads or power outages.
The release suggested keeping food supplies lasting up to three days and a gallon of water per person per day.
SVEC also suggested charging cell phones completely in case of outages, and keeping flashlights and batteries, a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit handy.
"We want our members to be as prepared as possible," Aulgur said.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org