As bitterly cold air and gusty winds moved into the area Monday evening, local school systems canceled classes for today, officials urged residents to bring pets indoors and area residents braced themselves for bone-chilling temperatures.
“This weather is the talk of the town,” said Mark Nolen, retail manager for ACE Hardware Heritage Home Center in Bassett. “We’ll be ready with propane, pipe fittings, portable heaters, straw for animal bedding and ice melt,” among other items.
With the low expected to reach 4 degrees Monday night, Nolen wasn’t the only one preparing for the freeze. The weather service posted a hazardous weather advisory through 3 p.m. today, warning that temperatures would fall to the single digits and the wind chill would feel like 5 to 15 degrees below zero.
Today’s high is expected to reach only 19 degrees, and the low of 12 degrees will feel more like 8 below zero with the wind chill, the forecast showed.
The forecast was enough to prompt Henry County, Martinsville and Patrick County schools and Patrick Henry Community College to cancel classes today. Grace Network also will be closed.
At Southern States on Monday, Store Manager Todd Plaster was helping customers prepare for the weather.
“A lot of our customers are buying bedding for their animals, extra feed, freeze prevention for water,” Plaster said. “Probably 75 percent of people have been buying that kind of thing for both pets and livestock.”
Plaster was particularly concerned for animals because “with animals you need to be very conscious (when the wind chill drops) below zero,” he said. “With pets, you should bring them inside and let them get some good food and water and stay warm.”
Nicole Harris, executive director of the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA, urged pet owners to bring their animals indoors while the cold weather persists. She added that the SPCA had a limited number of dog houses and blankets available for those who could not bring their pets inside.
“Hypothermia and dehydration (are) our biggest concerns with the animals left outside. Frozen water bowls and no protection from the wind will cause death to many animals ... Please bring them in,” Harris urged.
Although the forecast does not call for precipitation today or Wednesday, Virginia Department Of Transportation (VDOT) spokesman Jason Bond said roads nevertheless could become hazardous as strong winds whip through the region.
“Really, what we’re hoping is that the wind will dry everything out,” Bond said. “We’re more worried about downed trees with this extreme wind we’re facing.”
The National Weather Service predicted wind speeds between 10 and 20 mph today. The wind is forecast to die down this evening, with temperatures still in the teens.
Bond said tree removal crews and equipment will be ready, and snow and ice-clearing machinery will be on stand-by.
“We will have crews ready to respond as necessary to any changes we see,” he said.
He urged motorists to check road conditions on www.511virginia.org before driving. Bond added that downed trees on state-maintained roads can be reported to VDOT by calling 1-800-367-7623.
For some, such severe weather is a new experience.
Yesid Mosquera-Parea, an exchange student at Carlisle School from Quibdó, Colombia, said he had “never seen weather like this in all my life. I’m trying to wear a lot of warm clothes and trying to get my mind ready, because it is going to be a big deal for me just to walk into school from the car.”
Mosquera, who plays basketball, already had seen one of his games postponed.
“This is the first time cold weather has ever affected my sports life,” he said Monday. “It’s not the best thing that could happen to us in the middle of an important season, but we will handle it.”
Other, more cold-weather-experienced residents were less concerned. Robert Meador, who has operated Meadorwoods Landscaping and Nursery in Martinsville for 25 years, said he would simply “get my long pants out.” He credited working outside for many years with helping him withstand the cold.
“Compared to what they’re having up North, this is nothing,” Meador said.
Rhonda Draper said she would do everything she could to keep her Fieldale home warm and damage-free. Freezing pipes are possible in such low temperatures, the weather service warned.
“I’m going to turn on a little drip in my faucet, open up the cabinets to my sinks and let the pipes stay warm,” Draper said.
She added that the roads are always her biggest concern during winter weather. “If the roads get bad, I just stay home and try to get a ride if I need to go out.”
Some people have no choice but to brave the cold. Joe Adkins, Henry Moore and Preston Brown with Powers Signs in Danville were at Liberty Fair Mall on Monday renovating the sign at the front of the mall.
If you have to be outside in cold conditions, Adkins said, wearing layers is key.
“You’ve got to block the wind from getting in somehow,” he said.
Adkins’ advice to the cold-natured is simple.
“Stay inside,” he said. “It’s the best thing to do.”
Although temperatures are supposed to begin warming Wednesday, highs are not expected to leave the low 40s for the rest of the week, and a chance of rain is in the forecast from Thursday through Saturday.