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204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Large snowfall forecast
Meteorologists expect 6-10 inches Wednesday
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An Alabama Department of Transportation truck spreads road salt Monday along Interstate 65 in Birmingham, Ala., in preparation of ice and snow. (AP)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This time, it’s not a matter of whether we will see wintry precipitation, but how much we will see — and forecasters expect it will be a lot.

As of late Monday, the National Weather Service had Martinsville and Henry and Patrick counties under a winter storm watch from late tonight through Thursday afternoon. Meteorologists were predicting 6-10 inches of snow.

A deep low pressure system forming along the Gulf Coast will track toward the Atlantic Ocean and bring abundant moisture our way. As temperatures in the 30s today drop into the 20s tonight, the cold air will cause precipitation to fall as heavy snow, the weather service’s website showed.

“The only question is how much” snow will occur, said Patrick Wilson, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Blacksburg.

Computer models “seem to agree more” now that the low will track more to the south and east, which would bring heavier snows to the area, Wilson said.

Heavy, wet snow can make roads dangerous and weigh down tree limbs and electric lines, which could mean power failures, the weather service reported.

Data collected by meteorologists indicated a possibility of slightly warmer air than expected pushing its way into Southside on Wednesday. If that occurs, more sleet than snow is possible, according to forecasters.

That could occur if the low moves farther west or north than expected, Wilson said.

Meteorologists are keeping a close eye on the low, Wilson said, because if it veers as little as 50 miles off its expected course, it will have a major effect on how much precipitation the area receives.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Martinsville Public Works Department crews also are keeping a close eye on the weather. Officials said crews will be on duty around the clock if necessary after the winter storm starts to make roads as safe as possible.

VDOT started treating major highways with a brine solution — basically, saltwater — on Monday and will continue doing that today, said Lisa Price Hughes, resident administrator at the Bassett Forks office.

The office also has stockpiles of salt, sand and a mixture of both on hand, officials have said.

In the counties, VDOT focuses its attention first on primary roads — those numbered 600 and below — because they are the most heavily traveled. Examples of such roads include U.S. 220, U.S. 58 and Virginia 57.

Secondary county roads, numbered 600 and above, are plowed and treated after the primary roads are in the best shape possible. Residential streets are then handled.

Today, city crews will put plows and chains on trucks to get ready for the storm, said Public Works Director Jeff Joyce. He noted that crews can get trucks ready in four to six hours.

The city will begin applying a mix of salt and calcium chloride to roads when precipitation starts falling, Joyce said.

Trouble spots such as the hill on Liberty Street get first attention, he said.

Generally, however, the most heavily traveled routes in Martinsville, such as Memorial and Commonwealth boulevards, are treated and plowed first.

Streets with heavier traffic, such as Church Street and Starling Avenue, are then handled, followed by residential streets.

When snow accumulates, Joyce recommends that people wait to shovel their driveways after plows go down their streets so they do not have to shovel twice. Plows cannot avoid piling snow at the ends of driveways, he said.

Joyce also asks that people not park vehicles in the street so plows have an easier time removing snow.

The weather service doesn’t expect any snow to fall until after 1 a.m. Wednesday, its website showed.

As the storm gets closer and meteorologists become more certain of what it will do, a winter storm warning may be issued, according to Wilson.

Thursday’s high temperature is forecast to reach 34 degrees, but it may be Friday, when the high is expected to reach 46 degrees, before any significant melting of snow starts.

Yet with overnight lows in the 20s expected for the next few nights, any water on roads might freeze after the sun goes down.


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