Suffolk suffers brief whiteout

Published 9:17 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The results were somewhat less dramatic than folks in much of the rest of the state experienced, but Suffolk got a taste on Wednesday of the storm that brought blizzard-like conditions to much of the Eastern seaboard.

For a while, according to the city’s emergency operations center, Suffolk actually saw near-whiteout conditions. But by the end of the sudden burst of winter, the city had received less than an inch of snow, most of which melted in the sun that burst through and dominated the rest of the day.

Strong winds and a sudden dip in temperatures combined to make roads around the city treacherous by mid-morning. Suffolk spokesperson Debbie George said that city police were working seven different accidents at one point Wednesday morning. Two different locations, she said, had three separate accidents each.

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George said that emergency officials had expected some peripheral effects from a blizzard that was expected to pack another winter wallop in the already-blanketed I-95 corridor from Northern Virginia and headed northeast.

But the intensity of the storm that passed through Suffolk, though brief, seemed to have caught many by surprise.

Snow began falling in North Suffolk around 7 a.m.; when the winds picked up — around 9 a.m. — visibility dropped precipitously, and snow began sweeping across the roads.

George said salt and sand crews were not dispatched, and school officials said they were keeping students at school instead of taking a risk of sending buses onto dangerous roads.

As treacherous as Suffolk’s roads may briefly have been, however, there was no comparison to what other parts of the state were experiencing. Eastbound and westbound lanes on Interstate 64 on the Peninsula between Williamsburg and Newport News were blocked for several hours in the morning, for example, as state police cleared more than 70 accidents, according to Sgt. Michelle Cotten, a spokesperson for the Virginia State Police.

Sections of four different interstate highways in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey had been closed by midday because of blizzard conditions and related accidents.

Back in Suffolk, George said the city’s emergency operations center was expecting the cold temperatures to contribute to continued slick roads; also there was a slight chance of more snow Wednesday night.

The National Weather Service was predicting high temperatures in the low 40s Thursday and Friday, with a chance of snow on Saturday and again on Monday and Tuesday.