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Storm dumps snow on region

Tom Gimple, a town of Strasburg employee, plows this section of Rose Lane Thursday morning after nearly a foot of snow fell overnight. Rich Cooley (Buy photo)

David Malbuff and his son Alex, 20, clear the driveway of their Crim Drive home in Strasburg on Thursday morning with their snowblower. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Gunther Gibbs of Front Royal carries a bag of salt on his shoulders as he makes his way down North Royal Avenue to his apartment Thursday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Michael McWatt of Front Royal digs out his car outside Front Royal Town Apartments on North Royal Avenue on Thursday afternoon. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Ryan Cornell

Thursday's snowstorm, affectionately dubbed by some as Winter Storm Pax, has lived up to its name.

Peace could be found in the empty school hallways, government offices and city streets, where drivers were strongly encouraged to stay at home.

Carl Barnes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said this latest snowfall -- measuring 15.4 inches in Stephens City by 11 a.m. Thursday -- is the highest since February 2011. That storm measured 2 feet in some areas, he said.

He said this week's storm, which formed along the Gulf Coast and spread through the Georgia and the Carolinas before starting to fall in the Northern Shenandoah Valley at about 7 p.m. Wednesday, is expected to head north toward Maine. A winter storm warning issued by the agency will last in the area until 5 a.m. today.

According to the meteorologist, temperatures will reach into the low 40s on Friday and might melt some of the snow.

A possible wintry mix is expected from tonight to Saturday morning as well as from Monday night into Tuesday, he said.

Valley Health employees prepared for the storm by holding a sleep-over.

Carol Weare, public relations manager at Valley Health, said staff at its three regional hospitals spent Wednesday and Thursday nights in hospital rooms with beds as well as local hotels.

"We're kind of all about contingency plans and disaster preparedness," she said.

She said that emergency room traffic is "way down" and has about one-third as many patients as usual. Patients with elective surgeries called in on Wednesday to cancel their appointments, she added.

As Valentine's Day approached, local florists such as Lindsey Cyr were using the lull in customer traffic to prepare for the inevitable rush on Friday.

Cyr, the owner of Strasburg Florist, said her flowers had arrived at the beginning of the week and that she had completed most of her delivery orders before the storm hit.

"The biggest hiccup is people being able to get out," she said.

Although Interstates 81 and 66 and primary roads in Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties were clear, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation, secondary roads in the three counties were covered in snow.

VDOT spokeswoman Sandy Myers said the agency has experienced more snow from the storm than previous winters and said plow drivers are taking a little bit longer to clear neighborhoods.

She said drivers are working 12-hour shifts to plow roads and will continue until the roads are cleared.

"We're still emphasizing people not to go out and travel," she said. "It really helps the plow drivers out. People were great today, if they can just wait a little bit longer."

Virginia State Police reported receiving thousands of service calls throughout the commonwealth during the storm. Spokeswoman Corinne Geller noted in a news release that most of the crashes that were investigated involved vehicle damage but no major injuries. However, there were two storm-related traffic fatalities. A Nathalie, Va., man died in a crash in Halifax County on Wednesday, and a VDOT contract worker was killed Thursday in an accident in Loudoun County.

Visit www.nvdaily.com for updates to this story as well as information about school closings.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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