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7-15 inches of snow forecast
Governor declares state of emergency
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Mark Nolen, retail manager for Ace Heritage Hardware in Stanleytown, shows a pallet of ice melt as well as shovels his store has stocked in anticipation of bad weather. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Friday, January 29, 2010

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Forecasters expect Henry County and Martinsville will get 7 to 15 inches of snow during a winter storm this weekend, prompting Gov. Bob McDonnell on Thursday to declare a state of emergency across southern Virginia.

The declaration authorizes state agencies to help local governments handle the storm.

Among other things, the State Police and Department of Transportation are preparing to keep roadways clear and assist motorists and the National Guard has put 200 soldiers on standby.

Predictions of actual snowfall amounts vary, but the National Weather Service predicted between 7 inches and 10 inches for this area.

A private weather forecasting service that the Virginia Department of Transportation uses estimated 10 to 15 inches, said Lisa Price Hughes, residency administrator at VDOT's local office in Bassett Forks.

Considering the fair skies and temperatures near 60 degrees on Thursday, it might be hard to believe that a snow storm is on its way.

However, the weather service placed the area under a winter storm warning from 7 p.m. today until 6 p.m. Saturday. Light snow is expected to begin this afternoon, then change to heavy snow tonight and Saturday morning before tapering off by Saturday night, a statement issued by the service said.

The storm is expected to basically be "a 24-hour event," said meteorologist Anita Silverman at the weather service office in Blacksburg.

While it predicted up to 10 inches, the weather service said the exact track of the storm will determine how much snow actually falls.

"If the storm moves north or south by 20 to 30 miles, it will impact how much we get," said Martinsville Public Works Director Leon Towarnicki.

The storm is advancing toward Virginia from the lower Mississippi Valley, information provided by the weather service shows.

Saturday, temperatures are forecast to reach a high of 25 degrees and fall to 15 degrees that night before rising to 33 degrees - one degree above freezing - on Sunday and dropping to 11 degrees that night.

Early next week, temperatures are expected to be in the 30s and 40s during the daytime but drop to the freezing point or lower at night, according to the forecast.

Home supply stores and supermarkets did a brisk business Thursday as customers prepared for the storm.

At Ace Heritage Hardware Home Center in Stanleytown as well as Lowe's on Commonwealth Boulevard, customers were buying supplies such as ice melting substances, shovels, gloves, sleds, portable heaters and propane tanks, employees said.

Customers at Kroger on Greensboro Road were buying milk, bread and other "mainstays" of winter storms, said store manager Jerry Beane.

At Woody's Supermarket in Ridgeway, many people were buying ingredients to make homemade soup to keep warm, said store manager Billy Wheeler.

All of the stores contacted reported their business being at least slightly more than normal for Thursdays.

That includes Taylor's Supermarket on Northside Drive, where manager Mike Cart took a phone call but said he could not talk for long because he was running a checkout line.

Stores were not running out of supplies.

"This winter, we've tried to stay prepared" ahead of storms, said Mark Nolen, retail manager at Heritage Home Center.

Donnie Vaughn, sales manager at Lowe's, made a similar comment.

Wheeler said he did not have to order more goods in expectations of a rush of customers - his suppliers anticipated the rush and automatically provided his store with more merchandise.

Store managers said customers had various reactions to the coming storm.

"Some say they're dreading it. Some say "╦ťbring it on,'" Wheeler said.

Vaughn said many Lowe's customers he talked with got their fill of wintry weather during the December storm that dumped as much as 14 inches of snow on some parts of the area.

"Most people don't want" any more, he said.

Kroger customers seemed "a little bit apprehensive" about the storm, said Beane.

"They're not sure it's going to happen, but they're getting ready just in case" it does, he said.


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