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Area prepares for heavy snowfall
Eight to 12 inches expected through Thursday
Brandon Fellows puts a snow shovel he purchased in the back of his pickup Tuesday at Ace Hardware in Stanleytown. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Eight to 12 inches of snow potentially could fall in Martinsville and Henry County today and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Blacksburg.
A winter storm warning is expected to be in effect from 6 a.m. today until 6 p.m. Thursday, according to NWS meteorologist Dennis Sleighter. The accumulating snow is expected to begin falling until around 11 a.m.
Schools in Henry County, Martinsville and Patrick County closed today due to the approaching story.
“There always is some level of uncertainty” predicting winter storms, Sleighter said, but based on how similar systems have behaved in the past, this snowfall “has been showing signs of being a potent storm... the (biggest) one to impact our region this winter.”
On Thursday, he said, temperatures are expected to rise to about 40 degrees, and temperatures are expected to rise to the mid-40s on Friday, which will cause some melting. However, he said, temperatures will drop down to the mid-20s each night, creating the danger of re-freezing.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) applied brine to area roads on Tuesday in anticipation of the snowfall, according to resident engineer Lisa Hughes. Brining the roads “buys you time,” Hughes said, as it helps prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement.
“We’ve got equipment ready to go,” Hughes said Tuesday, and road crews and contractors are ready to move into action as soon as the snow began to fall.
Hughes said VDOT will be applying a sand and salt mixture to roads once the snow begins falling. The sand not only aids traction, but also helps bond the ice-melting salt to the road, she said.
VDOT also has calcium chloride which can be added to the regular sand/salt mixture to better melt high-traffic roads, such as U.S. 220 and route 58.
Those primary routes are VDOT’s main focus, Hughes said; the department likely will not be able to clear secondary roads until after the snowfall has ended.
While the winter weather may be a headache for road crews, it is a boon to some local businesses. According to area hardware store managers, the impending snowfall has sent more residents to their stores than any previous snowfalls this winter.
Sales are “going through the roof,” said Jason Yopp, manager of Northwest True Value Hardware in Ridgeway on Tuesday.
“We were fully stocked” with ice melt, snow shovels, heaters and other seasonal items, but “they’re going out faster than I even expected,” Yopp said. Kerosene heaters in particular seem to be selling quickly, he added.
However, Yopp anticipated that the store had enough winter items in stock to meet demand.
“Our Roanoke store got in some extra ice melt and snow shovels,” Yopp said, and the Ridgeway location was able to get some of Roanoke’s extra stock.
Other area hardware stores are having a more difficult time keeping enough winter items in stock.
Charles Anthony, manager at Ace Heritage Home Center in Stanleytown, said he anticipated that the store would be sold out of winter items by the end of Tuesday.
“The supplies are very thin,” Anthony said, “and our sources are drying up, too.”
Rock salt, ice melt, snow shovels and heaters are seasonal items made only once a year, Anthony said, and once the warehouses are empty, it’s not always possible to reorder the items.
“I think there’s a lot of frenzy,” Anthony said. “It’s kind of overwhelming. We haven’t had a storm like this in a while.”
Mike Mayes, store manager at Lowe’s in Martinsville, said Tuesday that sales of snow shovels, sleds, batteries and flashlights have been brisk, although the store has been sold out of ice melt since the previous snow.
“Producers are having a hard time keeping up with demand,” Mayes said.
Some residents have begun to improvise, Mayes said, buying bags of salt pellets that are used in water softeners and crushing the pellets to spread on sidewalks and driveways. Of the three brands of salt pellets Lowe’s offers, Mayes said, one brand had sold out by Tuesday morning.
Ray Bragg, store manager at Kroger in Martinsville, said business was solid on Tuesday, with the traditional winter items — bread, milk and eggs — selling quickly. However, he did not believe there was any danger of a shortage.
“We just got a new truckload of milk in today,” Bragg said, “and we doubled up on the order, so we’re good right now.”
Area resident Princess Millner said she was well stocked on bread and eggs, but she stopped at Wal-Mart on Tuesday to pick up milk, touch-lights to use in the event of a power failure and diapers.
Millner said that she didn’t expect the snowfall to be as bad as predicted, “but I want to be safe, because I’ve got two babies.”
Area resident George Hooker left Lowe’s with a new snow shovel on Tuesday, an impulse item he picked up to help use up a gift card. Hooker said he expected a significant snowfall, since the weather system is coming up from the South.
“That’s where we always get our biggest ones, from the South,” he said.
However, he wasn’t overly concerned about the impending snowfall.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” Hooker said, “and I haven’t seen a snow yet that within 24 hours you couldn’t get out moving around.”
“It’s not like you’re going to be snowed in for a week or something,” he added.