Published 8:39 pm Saturday, January 7, 2017

In the end, the snow storm that had set its sights on Hampton Roads earlier this week turned the worst of its wrath to the north and west.

Suffolk and the rest of Tidewater were located in a band that the National Weather Service said Saturday afternoon had received from three to seven inches of snow during the 16 hours or so that the storm dumped precipitation on the area.

Just to the north and west, starting along a line that cut through the center of Isle of Wight and Southampton counties, the accumulation totals increased to nine to 12 inches or more in a band that reached roughly to I-85, according to the NWS.

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Still the accumulation in Hampton Roads caused its share of headaches.

In a press release at 9:15 a.m., Suffolk spokeswoman Diana Klink stated that snowfall around the city had accumulated to a depth of 2 to 4 inches and that “plowing has also begun in earnest.”

Public works crews worked through the night applying a brine solution to the roads to make sure all primary and many secondary roads had been treated before the snow started to fall, she stated. Once the snow began, crews switched to a sand/salt abrasive mixture.

In a 2 p.m. release, Klink reported that crews had spread a total of 736 tons of abrasives and 334 tons of salt. But, she added, the wind that weather forecasters had cited as the reason for a portion of Hampton Roads being placed under a blizzard warning was blowing snow back onto the road nearly as quickly as crews could clear them.

“Citizens are asked to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary,” she added. “Motorists are reminded that hazardous travel conditions continue throughout Hampton Roads, and they should exercise caution while driving, allow extra time to reach their destination and avoid sudden stops or accelerations.”

As of noon, police in Suffolk had responded to 18 incidents, all of them minor, since 6 p.m. Friday, Klink said in a separate email.

It was “definitely a sign that citizens have been paying attention when advised to stay off roadways,” she added.
Temperatures remained in the upper 20s to lower 30s throughout Saturday, plunging into single digits early Sunday morning, with wind chill values below zero. It is expected to be even colder moving into Monday morning, with the NWS forecasting a drop to 6 degrees by 7 a.m. Monday.

That combination of factors means that the snow is likely to remain where it is through much of the week.

The Suffolk Visitor Center and Suffolk Executive Airport, both of which were closed on Saturday, will remain closed on Sunday, according to Klink. Suffolk schools had not yet announced their plans for Monday by press time on Saturday. Much will depend on the progress crews can make on getting secondary roads cleared.

“Treatment of our secondary roads will follow our primary roads, and trucks will most likely not be servicing residential neighborhoods for a couple of days after the storm, if at all,” Klink stated in her release. “It is extremely difficult for the large snowplows and equipment to access some neighborhoods due to no turning radius, dead ends and other factors.”

At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Virginia State Police had reported 120 crashes and a 292 disabled vehicles during the storm in the Division V area, which includes Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore, Williamsburg, Franklin and Emporia.

Even before the first snowflake had fallen, Gov. Terry McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency across the commonwealth. The declaration authorized state agencies to assist local governments in responding to the storm.

“I have been briefed by the National Weather Service and my emergency team, who are tracking this storm and following the potential impacts it could have across much of the state,” McAuliffe stated in the press release announcing the declaration.

“I urge Virginians to limit travel as the severe weather arrives and follow directions from local and state officials. We hope this storm passes quickly through our Commonwealth, but our top priority must be to ensure the safety of our citizens and their families.”