Snow began falling early Tuesday morning and continued throughout the day and evening. Area schools were closed Wednesday, but unlike previous cancellations this year, it was because of snow, not cold temperatures or a snow forecast that did not materialize.
Schools will be closed again today in Martinsville, Henry and Patrick counties due to dangerous road conditions.
Local high school students Nick Haley, 15, and Emily Gaines, 17, were candid about the weather on Wednesday.
“I’m really enjoying it,” Haley said. “Actually having some snow, being able to sled a little and having enough snow for a snowball fight” made for a fun day off.
Haley and Gaines used their sleds on a hill in the Forest Lake subdivision.
“We attempted to build a snow man,” Gaines said, “but having no stress” was the highlight of her day off.
Allen Sexton had more practical concerns. “Getting in and out to work” was his biggest worry, he said as he shoveled the snow off his driveway on Lawson Street off Rives Road in Martinsville.
Sexton, like some area residents, was caught by surprise when snow began to fall on Tuesday. “I was really not expecting weather like this,” he said.
Although sunshine returned Wednesday, cold temperatures created problems clearing local roads, according to Lisa Hughes, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) residency administrator for Martinsville, Henry County and Patrick County.
“Even being fully staffed Wednesday night, the best thing we can do is sand the bad spots,” she said.
“Our primary roads are in good shape,” Hughes said, adding that those highways – US 220 and 220 bypass, US 58, US 57, and 108 – were treated all day Tuesday and into Wednesday. “
Hughes is urging drivers to be careful early today. “Drivers should still use caution in the morning because temperatures could get cold Wednesday night,” she said. “Black ice and refreezing are concerns Thursday morning.”
Although area VDOT employees were poised to respond as needed to bad spots Wednesday night, particularly on bridges and overpasses, they plan on making significant progress today as temperatures are expected to rise, according to Hughes.
Steve Keighton, a science and operations officer at the National Weather Service (NWS), said the weather will take a slightly warmer turn over the next few days.
“We are expecting a slight moderation to these bitterly cold temperatures,” he said Wednesday. “But it will still be a chilly day Thursday. It will be a little bit better, with highs above freezing, and the snow may begin to slowly melt. It will really start to warm up into the weekend.”
An arctic air mass is responsible for the recent cold turn, according to Keighton.
“The overall pattern has been favoring this arctic air mass. The air masses come down right out of Canada or almost from the north pole,” he said. “We’ve just been on this track of system after system coming from there.”
“We often get air masses out of Canada and the northern plains, Now we’re finally seeing more zonal east/west flow, which means different weather systems” should be making their way into this area in the next week, Keighton said.
Henry County administrative and public service authority offices have announced that they will delay opening until 9 a.m. on Thursday, due to refreezing concerns, according to a press release.