Counties, towns anticipate storm, take precautions

Darrin Lucas, left, and Terry Wetzel, both Virginia Department of Transportation operators, mount the plow on the department's new wing plow truck at the Stephens City transportation department Thursday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Towns and counties in the region started taking precautions Thursday in anticipation of the predicted winter storm.

Local government offices and agencies had not issued closings as of Thursday though officials said they would wait to see the severity of the storm before making any decisions. None of the area counties or towns had issued local emergencies by Thursday evening.

The timing of the storm likely means little impact on government operations, Doug Stanley, county administrator for Warren County, said Thursday.

“Like any storm – not just this one – we’re getting prepared to be ready for it,” Stanley said. “I think the good thing is it’s going to happen, for the most part, over the weekend.”

Shenandoah County might close the landfill and the animal shelter in Edinburg on Saturday, County Administrator Mary T. Price said Thursday. The county would notify the public if and when that decision is made. The county also will notify the public if its offices or departments close early, Price added.

Tracy Ketterman, a Virginia Department of Transportation supervisor at the Stephens City transportation department, monitors the brine operation Thursday morning. VDOT crews were busy pretreating area roads for the winter storm. Rich Cooley/Daily

Price said the Sheriff’s Office has notified her that they have four-wheel-drive vehicles ready in case they need to access areas in the county. The county also will have workers on stand-by who are part of the Emergency Operations Center in case they need to open the facility. The Social Services and Health departments have people available in case they are needed, Price said.

The Virginia Department of Transportation maintains most roads in the counties and some in the towns in the region. Warren County does maintain roads in the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District not already turned over to the state.

Warren County staged snow-removal equipment in position to handle the predicted amount of precipitation.

“We feel, especially county facilities-wise, we should be in good shape by the time Monday morning rolls around,” Stanley said. “If there’s any silver lining, it’s the fact that the timing of the storm, most of it’s going to happen over the weekend and we’ll have Sunday to clean up.”

Warren County doesn’t operate a landfill but could close the convenience centers in the event the area sees a lot of snow.

Front Royal and other towns also plow and maintain their own roads. Front Royal issued an additional alert to residents Thursday advising that the town would need to close the Visitor’s Center, the Administration Building’s Drive-Thru and the Manassas Avenue Drop-Off Site on Saturday.

Strasburg Assistant Town Manager Jay McKinley said the government offices will remain open but the public will be notified if that changes. Town workers have spent much of the week preparing and testing the snow-removal vehicles, McKinley said. The town has 11 trucks it plans to run 24 hours per day during the storm with nine operators per shift as well as on-call workers, McKinley added.

“If it’s a really bad storm, we’re going to focus on the snow-emergency routes through town,” McKinley said. “So I think it’s important for residents to realize that if it’s coming down so fast that we can’t keep all of town clear, then we’re just gonna pull back and focus on the emergency sections of town so we can at least get people through town.

“Then, as it lets back up, then we’ll go back out – we’ll start spreading back out and hitting subdivisions and the side streets,” McKinley added.

Woodstock Town Manager Reid Wodicka said by email the government agencies prepared for this storm as they do any other winter event.

“Plow crews and shifts have been assigned and will begin operations as soon as snow begins falling,” Wodicka states. “We have pre-defined routes and focus areas for each asset and our crews will be working rotating 12-hour shifts.

“We will continue to work until the roads are clear,” Wodicka adds. “During the heaviest of the snowfall, we focus on maintaining at least one lane open on all roads, primarily for emergency vehicle access, with special focus on our pre-defined emergency routes (those routes are signed for motorists to see). In the meantime, we have checked and rechecked all of our equipment for operation. All equipment is functional and ready.”

Frederick County is closely monitoring the storm and collaborating with the Virginia Emergency Operations Center as necessary, Public Information Officer Karen Vacchio stated in an email Thursday. The county is providing preparedness information through its website at www.fcva.us, Comcast channel 16 and social media sites.

Frederick County is prepared to open emergency shelters if necessary, Vacchio said.

“We believe the best advice for people is to shelter in place until the storm is over and roads are cleared,” Vacchio states in the email. “If people live in an area that is prone to power outages and they have somewhere to go that is not prone to power outages they should consider going before the storm moves in; people should have a plan on how they will communicate with each other during and after the storm; people should be sure their pets are inside and be prepared to take them with them if they leave; people should have enough food, water, and, if necessary, prescription drugs for at least three days; plan for a method to check on elderly neighbors and relatives.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com