Increasing chance of snow in Suffolk

Published 2:06 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2020

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The National Weather Service’s Wakefield office said Suffolk can expect around three to four inches of snow Thursday evening into early Friday morning, with locally higher amounts possible in the southern part of the city, and higher winds to the north.

It has issued a winter storm watch in effect from Thursday afternoon through Friday morning for southeast Virginia.

Earlier in the afternoon Wednesday, forecasters were still waiting for model consensus on how much for the area to expect. However, Wakefield meteorologist Mike Montefusco said by later in the afternoon, all but one model had come together, with the North American Mesoscale Forecast System, or NAM, calling for higher snow totals.

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Montefusco said the storm is expected to begin as rain Thursday afternoon, changing to a rain/snow mix mid-to-late afternoon, around 4 to 5 p.m., before shifting to light snow in the early evening hours, and heavier snow after 8 p.m. into the early overnight hours Friday.

“The saving grace, if you will, with this, is it will be moving out pretty quickly,” Montefusco said of the inclement weather. “It’s what’s called a pretty progressive system. It’s pretty well in and out before sunrise into Friday morning. By the time you get into Friday morning, most of anything accumulating will certainly be over.”

He did say that a couple of isolated snow showers may be possible early Friday morning, but there wouldn’t likely be any other significant accumulation.

He said the southern part of the city into Gates County in North Carolina could expect higher amounts of snow during the storm, while winds developing along the coast would gust into the 30 to 35 mile-per-hour range Thursday evening in the northern part of the city.

Montefusco said city residents would wake up Friday morning to temperatures in the upper 20s to lower 30s and that it would warm up to the mid-to-upper 30s during the day. He said to expect the temperatures to be sharply colder Friday evening, with temperatures in the city in the low-to-mid 20s. Saturday is expected to be sunny, with a high near 51.

“We could have up to four inches of snow on the ground across the area, so that’s going to be an issue for cleanup purposes,” Montefusco said.

The city’s Public Works Department began treating the city’s roads around noon Wednesday with a brine solution at major bridges and overpasses, which is used to prevent the forming of bonded snow and ice on the roads.

It was to continue putting brine on the roads and bridges Wednesday evening, and crews will continue that process Thursday morning.

Public Works crews have also inspected and fueled equipment, including snow plows and spreaders, and the city said it is fully stocked with sand and salt for the winter season.

“We will continue to monitor the weather forecasts and conditions and will adjust operations as needed,” a news release stated.

The city has more winter weather preparation tips on the city’s website at

City Public Works Director L.J. Hansen said in December the city focuses its efforts on pre-treating bridges and elevated roads when the temperatures drop, because they freeze first. Those areas, he said, include the Holland Bypass, the Mills Godwin Jr. Memorial Bridge, Broad Street Bridge, Pinner Street Bridge and most other bridges in the city. Those areas tend to freeze first, he said, because cold air comes up underneath them.

Another problem area Hansen identified is the downtown intersection of North Main Street and Constance Road due to the hill on Main Street. Though it doesn’t freeze first, the road can get slippery there, which poses a problem for city crews.

Following the pre-treating of roads, Hansen said the city puts its staff on standby and has its equipment ready, though it doesn’t keep salt and sand mix in its trucks because it can harden as it gets colder. Instead, it keeps trucks near the abrasive piles.

The Suffolk School Board’s meeting Thursday evening is still on for now, according to Anthonette Ward, community engagement officer for Suffolk Public Schools.

With the increasing chances of snow across the region, the Virginia Department of Transportation and AAA Tidewater are urging caution among those who may be driving during the forecasted inclement weather.

VDOT, with a snow budget of $10.1 million, began pretreating roads Wednesday, spreading brine across Hampton Roads’ interstate system. Brine increases the freezing temperature of the surface and helps to prevent ice on the road, according to the agency.

Pretreating in VDOT’s Franklin residency, which serves Isle of Wight, Southampton and Sussex counties, as well as Emporia and Greensville, will start Thursday morning.

VDOT has more than 470 pieces of equipment available, including trucks with plows and salt spreaders, as well as front end loaders and backhoes. Depending on the weather, VDOT said it can bring in more equipment. Its priority is to have all state-maintained roads passable within 48 hours after a winter storm ends.

AAA Tidewater is urging drivers to put on their seat belts, keep their cars clear, slow down and have a winter weather driving kit with them in their cars.

The driving kit should have the following, according to AAA Tidewater: blanket, ice scraper, flares/reflective triangles, flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, a bag of abrasive material such as cat litter, a shovel, a cloth or paper towels, a first aid kit, a bottle of water and a cell phone with a full charge.

AAA Tidewater also offered basic safety tips for drivers.

“When driving on snow covered or icy roads, motorists often make the mistake of being overconfident since some roadways look clear,” said Holly Dalby, AAA Tidewater director of public affairs. “This leads to travel at higher than recommended speeds, and when the same driver hits a patch of ice, the results can be devastating.”