Brace yourself

Published 8:29 pm Friday, January 29, 2010

Forecasts have called for snow a number of times in recent weeks only to see a few flakes hit the Suffolk area or miss it altogether. This time, forecasters say, it’s going to snow. In fact, it already may have started by Saturday morning.

The only question that remains is exactly how much.

The National Weather Service as late as Friday afternoon was still calling for snow for Suffolk and in substantial amounts.

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“We are estimating Suffolk will receive 6 to 12 inches starting at 10 p.m. Friday night, with the brunt of the storm hitting around dawn on Saturday,” National Weather Service meteorologist Andy McLaurin said on Friday.

From the north, a cold blast caused temperatures to drop Friday. From the west — across the plains and Mississippi — a storm system will bring moisture to the area early Saturday morning. When the two systems collide, meteorologists say, the whiteout will follow.

Late Thursday, Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency and said in a press release that the southern half of Virginia — from the Southwest to Hampton Roads — was expected to receive the brunt of the storm.

A state-of-emergency declaration allows the governor to order state agencies to work with local governments to develop an effective response prior to the snowfall, the press release stated.

The city of Suffolk was keeping an eye on the weather patterns on Friday.

“As with all threats of severe weather, the forecast is being monitored by the Department of Emergency Management,” city spokesperson Debbie George said. “We anticipate having a much clearer picture as to what to possibly expect within the next twelve hours. All city departments are prepared to respond accordingly.”

George also announced a number of closings for the weekend, including city librariers, recreation centers and parks. The Suffolk Visitor Center will be closed Saturday and Sunday and all city-sponsored athletic events have also been canceled.

On Friday, George announced the city’s emergency operations center would be activated Saturday morning, but she said there were “no immediate plans to open evacuation shelters at this time.”

Despite the fact the expected snowstorm caused a number of cancellations and rescheduled events, Suffolk Public Schools could not have been more thankful for the timing.

The system will not have to worry about road conditions for buses this weekend and Monday, as children already were scheduled to be out of school on Monday for a teachers’ work day.

In preparation for potential power outages caused by the storm, Dominion Power stated it had trucks stocked and fueled and crews ready to respond to outages.

“Dominion anticipates moderate to heavy snowfall moving easterly across the central and southern regions of the state from the storm, which could knock trees and limbs into power lines and create outages,” Dominion officials said in a Friday release. “The exact timing and strength of the storm may vary …”

Customers are reminded to call 1-888-667-3000 to report outages or downed lines.

To keep up to date on the current storm, visit and click on the commonwealth of Virginia on the map.