Snow blasted

Published 9:12 pm Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monuments at Cedar Hill Cemetery were dusted with about an inch of snow on Monday. More snow is expected today, with some models predicting even more this weekend.

Suffolk braces for a blast of winter

With the official end of autumn still almost a week away, Suffolk and the rest of Hampton Roads were gearing up on Wednesday for another blast of winter weather.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Wakefield said Suffolk residents could expect to see snow starting this morning by 7 a.m. and continuing until early afternoon, when it is expected to change to a wintry mix of freezing rain and sleet that will continue into the night.

Unseasonably cold temperatures will linger tomorrow, according to NWS meteorological technician James Foster, who added that there is little evidence to indicate a break in the bitter cold for at least a week.

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“The whole area has been in a sort of cold regime for some time,” he said. With high temperatures not expected to climb out of the 30s for at least another week, he added, that regime is not expected to be broken soon.

In fact, the temperature is expected to be the primary problem with today’s weather. While the snow and wintry mix of precipitation that follow it will accumulate up to three inches, he said, the bitter cold temperatures that accompany the precipitation will ensure that it quickly turns to ice, especially on bridges and overpasses.

For this reason, according to Suffolk spokesperson Debbie George, public works and emergency crews were already getting ready for their storm assignments.

“Anytime we have potential for ‘big weather,’” she said, “We are always planning.”

City manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn has met with her staff, and “Everybody is ready to go,” George said.

Once the precipitation starts, public works crews will begin spreading an anti-icing material onto roads, following a predetermined list of priorities that accounts for both the road’s susceptibility to icing and its traffic volume.

Public works crews are unable to pre-treat roads, George said, because the material they use needs moisture in order to be effective.

George said that, based on discussions with state officials and meteorologists, city officials expect the snow to be heaviest in the late morning and early afternoon. The National Weather Service’s Foster agreed, noting that the biggest danger will be from ice on untreated roads.

“The best thing for people, if they don’t have to go out, is to stay at home and enjoy their day at home,” Foster said. For those who must go to work, he added, “Drive slowly and consider the road conditions.”

While they were closely watching the storm that was to bring today’s bad weather, city officials and meteorologists were both keeping one eye on the weekend, which promises another winter storm that — depending on its development — could turn into something significant to the area.

One computer model, Foster said, was indicating conditions favorable for Suffolk to get a major snowstorm on Saturday and Sunday, but other models were disagreeing.

“It’s still sort of unclear at the moment,” he said. “The system hasn’t developed yet.”