Storm plows through Virginia

Gary Bly, left, a hired contractor for T.M. Dellinger Trucking, chats with VDOT superintendent Charles Whittington, center, and transportation operator Jeff Oczkowski, both from the Toms Brook area headquarters, about their duties at the 298 exit from Interstate 81 in Strasburg on Friday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily

Preliminary snow showers on the winter storm front came through the Shenandoah Valley a few hours earlier than initially expected on Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

A few flakes began to descend on southern Shenandoah County by around 9 a.m. and snowfall became heavier in the afternoon. As of press time, total accumulation estimates for the storm ranged from 24 to 30 inches in most areas and up to around 36 inches at higher elevations.

Matt Elliott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Baltimore/Washington Forecast Office, said a northern stretch of the system started precipitation in the area a couple hours earlier than anticipated, but the main line of snow didn’t hit southern Shenandoah until around 11 a.m.

A blizzard warning around the Washington, D.C., metro area only extended to Loudoun County, but also included a small region along the eastern edge of Warren and Luray counties, extending south. Elliott said wind gusts would reach 45 to 50 miles per hour in lower elevations and hit up to 60 miles per hour in the mountains – but wind strength wouldn’t be regular enough to warrant the warning in most areas.

Elliott said the water present in 12 inches of snowfall from the storm would be equivalent to 1 inch of rain, which is fairly typical for the region – not a particularly “wet” or “dry” snow.

A VDOT snowplow sits along the shoulder near the I-81 and U.S. 11 intersection at Strasburg Friday morning as crews wait for impending snow. Rich Cooley/Daily

Highs on Sunday should hover around the mid to low 30s, slightly lower than previously expected. Although temperatures are expected to climb later on into the week, nighttime lows would refreeze any liquid on the cold ground. Elliott estimated that a substantial portion of melting would take place by Tuesday.

“A lot of it depends on how much we ultimately end up getting and how long the snow sticks around,” he said. “I think that there’ll probably be some minimal melting on Sunday, even if it’s below freezing.”

Sandy Myers, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Staunton District communications manager, said VDOT and contractor-hired crews were pre-staged in preparation for the storm. Workers had already laid down anti-icing treatments on many roads starting on Thursday. Treated roads were recognizable by the tell-tale white streaks left on the asphalt.

With cold temperatures throughout this past week, snow began to stick quickly and crews started out on the roads straightaway. According to a VDOT news release, workers began 12-hour shifts on Friday and worked throughout the day.

Local power companies also kept their crews on standby for power outages on Friday, anticipating complications from any wetter snow and wind gusts.

A water main break caused Route 11 in Middletown around 3rd Street to close on Wednesday, and the road reopened just before the winter storm hit. Public Works Superintendent Donnie Welsh said the iron pipe burst due to continuous cold weather.

According to Welsh, the department received the report Wednesday morning and VDOT crews assisted in shutting off the road, closing off Main Street by 3 p.m. that day. Traffic was diverted to Interstate 81 and back roads, and Welsh said the department put in a gravel patch by Thursday afternoon. He estimated that blacktop would be poured over the site sometime after the storm, possibly sometime next week.

Keep track of updates

• Report any traffic hazards by calling 1-800-367-7623 and monitor current traffic conditions at http://www.511virginia.org/, http://www.vdotplows.org/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VaDOTStaunton.

• Report any outages by calling 1-800-234-7832 (SVEC), 800-552-3904 (Rappahannock) and monitor outages by visiting http://tinyurl.com/hgahxh8 (SVEC), http://tinyurl.com/hjl39e2 (Rappahannock), or http://tinyurl.com/o98yxs3 (Dominion).

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com