Icy weather is scheduled to arrive in Martinsville/Henry County today, but it should not last long.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for at least 32 counties in central, southwestern and Southside Virginia, including Henry County/Martinsville and Patrick County.
In some areas, that will mean up to an inch of snow, sleet and ice, The Associated Press reported.
For this area, it means freezing rain.
“We’ll be looking at some freezing rain beginning in the morning Sunday,” said Chris Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg. “By (5 p.m.) Sunday night it should be warm enough that it will switch into rain.”
Fisher said that the area may see a tenth of an inch to a quarter of an inch of ice accumulation between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. today. Temperatures are expected to hover around 32, the weather service’s website stated.
The danger is ice accumulation on trees and power lines, which could lead to power outages, Fisher said.
In spite of the fact that local temperatures reached the 70s on Friday, Fisher said he also expects some ice to accumulate on the ground. He advised caution while driving, especially on secondary roads, bridges and overpasses.
“It won’t take much ice at all to get those pretty slick,” he said.
Any accumulation will melt Monday when temperatures will be in the upper 40s.
Fisher said that this particular weather system is not uncommon, but typically it would just result in cold rain, not ice. However, because there’s a great deal of cold air trapped in the lower levels of the atmosphere, the rain is instead expected to turn freezing.
Fisher added that this particular weather system is not necessarily a sign of a hard winter to come; on the whole, he said, Martinsville/Henry County’s winter weather outlook is normal.
The threat of ice caused an uptick in sales on Saturday for several local businesses, including Kroger at Liberty Fair Mall in Martinsville and the Heritage Home Center on Fairystone Park Highway, Stanleytown.
Kroger store managers Latina Price and Ray Bragg said business was brisk on Saturday.
“We’ve had all 14 registers open since about 10 o’clock this morning,” Bragg said, with many shoppers gravitating toward the requisite milk and bread, along with soft drinks and snack goods.
Price said cereal and lunchmeat also are popular items on shopping lists when the weather turn bad. Battery sales also increase, she said, as a precaution in case the power goes out.
Michelle Zollars and her husband Rick Zollars stopped at Kroger Saturday to stock up for Sunday. It was Michelle Zollar’s second trip that day; the first trip was to buy supplies for her mother, and the second was to buy supplies for Rick’s mother.
“I’m getting my mom milk, bread and Klondike bars,” Rick Zollars said.
Richard Aguire stopped by Wal-Mart Saturday to purchase his weekly groceries. His main concern, he said, was getting to church today.
“I go to Mass at St. Joseph’s (Catholic Church in Martinsville) and we go up a steep hill,” he said, “so I hope it waits a little later (Sunday) before it starts.”
Mark Nolen, retail manager at the Heritage Home Center, said that he has not sold many snow shovels this year, but ice melt and propane have been strong sellers, along with kerosene lamps and canned heat.
Nolen said Saturday that he expected today’s icy weather could be a shock to some area residents.
“They’ll say, ‘Nah, it’s not going to do anything. It hasn’t done anything in three years,’” Nolen said. “The last few winters have been so mild. … I’m thinking this one is going to take some people by surprise.”
Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm has the potential to be a “historic ice event.”
“This forecast is very concerning to us,” Southard said Saturday. “I’ve worked multiple disasters, but I’ve never worked an ice storm with a forecast like this. It’s just really important for everybody to take extra precautions. We really want people to get where they need to go before the weather gets bad.”
Appalachian Power said crews from its West Virginia and Tennessee operations will be mobilized in Roanoke and Wytheville over the weekend and additional crews would be on standby Monday.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) stated in a release Saturday that its Salem District had prepared equipment and alerted employees and contractors to be ready to mobilize if bad weather hit.
Road condition information is available from VDOT by calling 511 or visiting www.511Virginia.org.
To reported downed trees on state-maintained roadways, Virginians can contact VDOT’s customer service center at 1-800-367-7623.