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Winter storm updates

UPDATED 2:45 p.m. Friday: The city of Suffolk has announced that all libraries, Suffolk Animal Control, the Suffolk Visitor Center, the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum and the Suffolk Executive Airport will remain closed through the weekend.

A wind chill advisory remains in effect, and temperatures in Suffolk on Friday will reach only 25 degrees during the day. Wind chills overnight into Saturday will be as low as -8, according to the National Weather Service.

The wind chill on Saturday — during the day — will be as low as -9, the National Weather Service stated on its website.

Suffolk Public Works still urges motorists to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary. If travel is necessary, drivers should heed the following advice:

  • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter and is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car. Include items such as jumper cables, blankets, first aid kit, water, non-perishable food, cat litter or sand, shovel, flash light and batteries, ice scraper and cell phone charger.
  • Let someone know where you are going and what route you’re taking.
  • Remove all snow from your vehicle before driving.
  • Drive with caution — Reduce your speed and increase following distances.
  • Don’t crowd snow plows or emergency vehicles — give emergency crews plenty of room to work.

All residents should also heed the following advice:

  • Stay indoors and stay warm. Dress in layers and reduce exposure to the cold.
  • With the bitter cold temperatures, the Virginia Department of Health reminds everyone that frostbite and hypothermia are serious concerns. If spending time outside, monitor the time you and others are outside, especially children.
  • If working outside, pace yourself; don’t overexert yourself and take frequent breaks. Be sure to check on others, especially if they are older or infirm.
  • If you have power-dependent medical equipment, keep all batteries at full charge in case you lose power.
  • In a life threatening emergency, call 911 for help immediately
  • Keep your cell phone charged in case of a power outage.
  • Bring pets inside from the cold. If they do need to go outside, try to minimize their exposure to cold weather.
  • Use caution when shoveling snow: Limit your exposure to cold, stay hydrated, lift with your knees, and do not over-exert yourself.
  • Do not use charcoal, generators, grills or similar devices inside.
  • Use these devices outside if necessary, as intended, and do not connect generators to your home electrical system.
  • Check on friends, family, neighbors, the elderly and those with medical needs.

UPDATED 9:30 p.m.: Suffolk Public Schools will once again be closed Friday.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and Suffolk Christian Academy also will be closed.

Suffolk city offices also will remain closed on Friday.

Alpha Personnel for the Suffolk Police Department, and others directed by their supervisor, should report to duty as usual.

Suffolk Transit will remain closed Friday.

Due to the weather conditions, the state of emergency that has been declared and the extended closure of the SPSA Landfill and TFC Recycling facilities, trash and recycling pick-up has been suspended and will resume under the normal operating schedule on Tuesday. Any extra items, bagged household waste, Christmas trees or bulk waste measuring 8 cubic yards or less may be placed at the curb for collection at the same time. These items will not count towards the 12 annual non-charged bulk pick-up.

While Public Works has made significant progress on primary and many secondary roads, they caution drivers to be aware of changing road conditions and the potential for icy spots following Tuesday’s sun and subsequent freezing. Drivers should continue to exercise caution in their driving even if conditions look very clear. Road crews will continue to work overnight and throughout the weekend in 12-hour shifts in their road clearing efforts. Their first priority is given to all primary or main roadways, followed by secondary arterials and connectors. Neighborhood streets are cleared last and, due to the size of the equipment, configuration of neighborhood streets and the presence of cars parked on the street, may not be accessible by city plows.

Residents can assist in the efficiency of snow removal by doing the following:

  • Avoid travel unless absolutely necessary; if you must travel, please drive cautiously and slowly, removing all snow and ice from the whole vehicle before driving
  • Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles
  • Stay back and avoid passing snow plows; snow or abrasive can come from the plow while operating
  • Avoid parking on streets to allow plow access where possible
  • Shovel sidewalks as soon as possible after storm; however, avoid shoveling snow from driveways or sidewalks into the roadway
  • Clear snow around fire hydrants; firefighters will be able to respond more quickly in the event of an emergency

To report roadway issues, citizens can contact Public Works at 514-7600.

For after-hours/weekend requests for emergency public utilities services such as broken water pipes, call 514-7000.

A wind chill advisory is in effect from 10 p.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Friday. Very cold wind chills are expected overnight, with values as low as 0 to -5. Temperatures are not expected to rise above freezing levels until Monday.

UPDATED 11:20 a.m.: Velocity Urgent Care Centers will remain closed today, Sentara spokesman Dale Gauding said.

UPDATED 10 a.m.: A heavy band of snow is still moving into the area after several inches of snow fell on the city overnight, according to a press release from the city of Suffolk.

Public Works crews continue to work around the clock in 12-hour shifts, focusing on primary roadways and some problematic secondary roadways, the press release stated. However, multiple passes by snow plow are needed due to heavy winds and drifting.

Citizens are being asked to continue staying off the roads. “It allows crews to do their jobs more quickly and efficiently and keeps our roadways accessible for emergency vehicles,” the press release stated. “Blowing snow is also causing very low visibility, making it even more dangerous for drivers.”

About 550 tons of salt and sand had been applied as of 5:30 a.m. However, salt is not effective once temperatures fall below 15 degrees.

Police have responded to 12 accidents since last evening. “They attribute these low numbers to the fact that citizens are heeding their warnings to stay off the roads,” the press release stated.

Snow removal information, including a map of priority routes, is available on the city website at www.suffolkva.us/412/snow-removal.

The storm is taking its toll on the region’s power system. Only eight Dominion Energy customers in Suffolk are out of power as of about 9:30 a.m. One is off of Godwin Boulevard, and the other seven are in the Pughsville area, according to the company’s online outage map.

However, more than 63,000 customers regionwide had been affected, with 38,700 still without power as of 7:30 a.m. The biggest trouble has been in Virginia Beach, spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris said, where 40,000 had been out and 30,000 were still out.

Crews from Northern Virginia and Richmond are on the way, Harris said, and the restoration effort was not expected to stretch into multiple days.

Sentara hospitals and emergency rooms are operating around the clock, Sentara spokesman Dale Gauding said. Free-standing emergency rooms, including Sentara BelleHarbour, are open.

Sentara Medical Group practices are closed, and patients are being contacted to reschedule appointments. Velocity Urgent Care Centers were set to open at noon, but that is being re-evaluated.

UPDATED 9:15 p.m.: Suffolk city offices will be closed on Thursday, according to a city press release. All scheduled activities and events are canceled, including before and after school care and athletic practices.

Alpha Personnel for the Suffolk Police Department, and others as directed by their supervisor, should report to duty as usual.

City Manager Patrick Roberts declared a state of emergency for the city of Suffolk as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, the press release stated.

Virginia Regional Transit will also be closed Thursday. Refuse collection will be delayed due to the closure of the SPSA landfill. Based on the current weather forecast, Wednesday’s usual route will be collected on Friday, Thursday’s collections on Saturday, and Friday’s collections on Monday.

City staff will clear ice and snow from priority streets as quickly as possible during this weather event, the press release stated. Efforts began Tuesday morning by pre-treating all primary roadways with a brine solution prior to the snowfall event. The Suffolk Public Works Department is equipped with 27 trucks, a combination of chemical spreaders and snow plows, four trucks set up as brine spreaders, as well as other smaller trucks and other types of construction equipment with blades that can be adapted to push snow if needed.

The department’s first priority is to make passable approximately 600 lane-miles of primary roads and additional lane-miles of priority streets that access hospitals, fire stations and police stations. Most neighborhood streets are not cleared because parked vehicles and other safety considerations make snow removal from these streets impractical. Problematic main roadways into and out of some neighborhoods will be treated or plowed as supervisors investigate if the equipment can safely work in such areas.

To report roadway issues, citizens can contact Public Works at 514-7600.

For after-hours or weekend requests for emergency public utilities services for such things as broken water pipes, call 514-7000.

UPDATED 4 p.m.: Suffolk Public Schools will be closed on Thursday, the division announced Wednesday afternoon.

Also Wednesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency authorizing state agencies to assist local governments in responding to the storm. By declaring a state of emergency, the governor authorizes state agencies to identify and position resources for quick response anywhere they are needed in Virginia, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“The bitter cold that continues to plague the Commonwealth will be joined by a potentially significant winter storm which will blast Hampton Roads, the Northern Neck, Eastern Shore and other areas of Eastern Virginia with snowfall and blizzard-like conditions in some communities.” McAuliffe stated in the press release. “With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for the travel disruptions, power outages and other threats to health and safety that could arise during this significant weather event.”

UPDATED 2:30 p.m.: All Sentara hospitals in Hampton Roads have inclement weather procedures in place, Sentara spokesman Dale Gauding stated in an email on Wednesday. Some clinical staff will spend the night to ensure they are able to work on Thursday.

All Sentara Medical Group practices currently plan to open at noon Thursday. However, conditions will be assessed in the morning to decide if they should remain closed. Practices are contacting patients with appointments Thursday morning to reschedule.

Velocity Urgent Care Centers in Hampton Roads — formerly Sentara Urgent Care — remain open their normal hours, but weather and driving conditions will dictate decisions tomorrow.

UPDATED 2:22 p.m.: All Suffolk Public Libraries and recreation centers will close at 5 p.m.

UPDATED at noon: All Isle of Wight County Schools will dismiss one hour early Wednesday, and all after-school events and activities have been canceled for Wednesday. In addition, schools will be closed Thursday in Isle of Wight.

UPDATED 11:55 a.m.: Suffolk Parks and Recreation will open its Joint Use sites for after-school programs immediately following early dismissals, according to a city press release. The sites will close at 5 p.m. There will be no athletic practices Wednesday evening.

UPDATED 11:30 a.m.: Suffolk Public Schools has announced an early dismissal for Wednesday, according to the division’s website.

All middle schools will dismiss at 12:30 p.m., with high schools following at 1:30 p.m., according to the announcement.

Elementary A schools will dismiss at 2:30 p.m. Those schools are Driver, Hillpoint, Kilby Shores, Mack Benn Jr. and Northern Shores elementary schools.

Elementary B schools will dismiss at 3 p.m. Those schools are Booker T. Washington, Creekside, Elephant’s Fork, Nansemond Parkway, Oakland and Pioneer elementary schools.

The division previously canceled all afternoon and evening activities for Wednesday.

Any changes will be communicated on the division’s Facebook page and website, through School Messenger and by local media and their websites. A recorded message will also be available after hours at 925-6750.

  • Nansemond-Suffolk Academy has canceled all after-school activities, practices and games, according to its website. The Middle School Spelling Bee has been rescheduled for Jan. 8.
  • Suffolk Christian Academy will close at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Extended care and after-school activities are canceled.

Earlier: The National Weather Service in Wakefield now predicts Suffolk and surrounding areas could get 5 to 10 inches of snow from a winter storm that is approaching the area.

The meteorologists have issued a winter storm warning for the area in effect from 1 p.m. Wednesday to the same time Thursday. Snow is expected to start around 4 p.m. and get heavier as the evening goes on, with reduced visibility on the roads.

Suffolk Public Schools has canceled afternoon and evening activities for Wednesday.

Suffolk Public Works already has begun treating roadways with a brine solution to help prevent icy conditions on the roads.

Check back later for more cancellations and news on the storm.