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Posted March 3, 2014 | comments Leave a comment

Hundreds of drivers impacted by weather

By Katie Demeria

Monday's winter storm resulted from two systems that moved across the country this weekend, dropping ice and snow on the valley and creating highly hazardous road conditions on Monday and today.

Gov. Terry McAuliff declared a state of emergency early Monday, authorizing state agencies to respond where they are needed throughout the state.

Power outages were minimal in the valley. Both Dominion Power and Rappahannock Power Cooperative reported around 300 outages during the day, but within several hours those members had power restored.

Many schools in the area closed for both Monday and today due to the weather, including Shenandoah, Frederick and Warren counties, along with those in the City of Winchester.

'Treacherous' driving conditions

The storm started as rain Sunday night, then turned to freezing rain and sleet before transitioning into snow early Monday morning, Lee said.

According to Sandy Myers of the Virginia Department of Transportation, those conditions are the most difficult for VDOT crews to treat.

"I like to say that every storm has a personality," Myers said. "For this one, you've got that rain and sleet to snow mixture, so you'll have that ice under the surface. That could make for very treacherous driving."

Plows have a hard time reaching the ice packed under the heavy, wet snow, she added. Pretreatment was also not an option -- the rain that started the storm would have washed all the chemicals away.

"People just need to have a little patience because this is very difficult for us to work through," she said.

In a news release, Corinne Geller of the Virginia State Police said troopers responded to 800 traffic crashes throughout the state between midnight and 3 p.m. Monday. State police dispatch centers received more than 2,000 calls for service, the release stated.

Of those incidents, 128 occurred in the Culpeper District, which includes Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties.

Few of those calls involved injuries, the release continued. One weather-related fatality was reported in Amelia County.

Myers said traveling conditions will likely continue to be hazardous this morning.

"The challenge is of course the temperature, so even when the plows come through, there still might be that little layer of ice underneath," she said.

The chemicals that crews use to treat the roads only work above a certain temperature, she added. When the temperature drops into the single digits, there is little crews can do to treat the ice.

"We're suggesting people try to avoid travel if they can, probably for at least another day," Myers said Monday.

Unseasonable cold

According to Lee, to night the valley could see record lows, with temperatures falling close to 5 degrees.

"That's pretty cold for around our region for early in March," Lee said. "We're getting single digit low temperatures three weeks before spring -- that's pretty cold."

"I'm sure there will be some sheltered locations in the valley that are going to be very close to zero," he continued.

This storm was a result of a low-pressure system that moved up the East Coast from the southeast area of the nation, starting a little west of the Mississippi Valley, he said.

The chilly temperatures were caused by an arctic air mass moving in from the Great Lakes region, he continued.

The snow accumulation will probably stick around throughout the rest of the week.

Temperatures will be around freezing today during the day, then back down into the teens tonight. Wednesday may get into the 30s as a high, with lows in the low 20s.

"Certainly, when you get these temperatures in the heart of winter it's normal, and that's typically mid to late January," Lee said. "But then again, it is still winter. Spring will start March 20."

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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