Police responded to 273 automobile accidents between 6 a.m. and midnight

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

For some, it was a belated – and unexpected – Christmas present.

For others, the snowstorm that pummeled Hampton Roads on Sunday, dumping as much as 11 inches in parts of Suffolk, was a treacherous headache.

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&uot;It created some havoc around here,&uot; Capt. James T. Judkins, the city’s emergency services coordinator, said Monday. &uot;Even this morning, road conditions created a bit of heartburn for motorists.

&uot;As everything gets scraped, the main highways are getting into pretty good shape,&uot; he continued. &uot;Although some of the back streets are still pretty messy, downtown crews have opened the city’s major arteries.&uot;

The heavy snow – which fells at rates of an inch per hour in some areas – and icy road conditions kept state and city emergency crews tied up all day Sunday.

From 6 a.m. to midnight, Suffolk police responded to 273 weather-related accidents across the city, said Lt. Debbie George, spokeswoman for the Suffolk Police Department. Injuries were only reported in 29 of them.

&uot;There were no serious injuries,&uot; George said. &uot;Officers were getting to accidents as quickly as they could…and officers from other divisions were on the streets yesterday. Even some of our detectives were out responding to accidents.

&uot;Wrecker service was backed up and …wreckers even went into ditches a couple of times.&uot;

Many of the accidents occurred on Holland Road, involving holiday travelers passing through the city on their way home from the Christmas weekend, she added.

Grayson Brumfield of Colorado, on his way to the Outer Banks after spending the holiday with family in Gretna, cut his Sunday travel short because of the weather.

‘I didn’t see any snow at all until I hit Emporia,&uot; he said. &uot;But it took me more than two hours to get to Suffolk from Emporia, a trip that usually takes about an hour.

&uot;I figured I’d stay overnight with family here, then head out for Kill Devil Hills (N.C.) around noon tomorrow. Hopefully, they will have had time to get the roads sanded or cleared by that time.&uot;

The Virginia Department of Transportation has been working around the clock since early Sunday to do just that, said Tiffany Elliott, a local agency spokeswoman.

In Suffolk and Isle of Wight County, more than 95 percent of the primary roads had been cleared by late Monday afternoon, she said.

&uot;They may freeze up again tonight, so we’ll put down a fresh coat of sand around 4 a.m., in time for the morning drive,&uot; she said. &uot;Right now, we are beginning to shift our focus to secondary roads and subdivisions. We hope to get those in tomorrow.&uot;

The agency’s plowing operations in Hampton Roads were slowed somewhat by a surprisingly high volume of traffic on the roadways, she added.

As of early Monday, a handful of Suffolk residents were still without power, said Judkins.

&uot;We still have few power outages in the north end,&uot; he said. &uot;We suffered the wrath of trees snapping, particularly in the areas surrounding Interstate 664 and various subdivisions in the Chuckatuck and Driver areas.&uot;

At one point, as many as 29,000 Dominion Virginia Power residents in southeastern Virginia were without power, he added. That number was down to about 2,000 early Monday morning.

On a positive note, some local employees got an unexpected – but welcome – extension to their holiday.

&uot;I just found out we’re closed tomorrow,&uot; said Bette Begley of Chuckatuck early Sunday evening. An employee for the Western Tidewater Health Department, she spent much of the day playing Scrabble in front of a crackling fire.

&uot;This is great!&uot;

City offices in Suffolk opened at noon Monday, while court was cancelled.