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Snow quickly wreaks havoc
Storm warning in effect until 6 tonight
Traffic is clustered along Commonwealth Boulevard on Wednesday after snow affected road conditions. The National Weather Service in Blacksburg said the Martinsville/Henry County area was expected to receive between 10 and 14 inches of snow by tonight. (Photo by Ray Reynolds)
What could be the biggest snowfall Martinsville and Henry County have seen in years began falling Wednesday and was expected to continue through tonight.
On Wednesday afternoon, meteorologist Patrick Wilson with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg said the Martinsville/Henry County area was expected to receive between 10 and 14 inches of snow by tonight. It would be the first time the area has received more than a foot of snow since 2009.
A winter storm warning is in effect until 6 tonight, Wilson said. He advised area residents to avoid road travel today unless absolutely necessary.
The weather system, which was coming from the South and heading up the East Coast, was drawing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, Wilson said, giving it a much higher potential for snowfall than the smaller clipper systems that have hit the area this winter.
Wilson said that as the system leaves the area later today, precipitation could turn from snow to sleet. Additionally, he said, a small clipper system could hit the area Friday, bringing another, much smaller quantity of snow.
However, Wilson said, temperatures are expected to rise above the freezing point Friday and Saturday, and temperatures Sunday could be as high as 50 degrees, which would help melt the snow.
Lisa Hughes, resident engineer with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), said that because temperatures in the area were so low on Wednesday, the snow began to stick to roads almost immediately. Temperatures peaked in the mid 20s around noon.
Accidents and traffic jams occurred throughout the area.
Hughes said Wednesday afternoon that all available VDOT crews were out treating roads with a mixture of sand and salt, and as snow began to accumulate, road scrapers would be deployed on primary roads, such as U.S. 220 and U.S. 58.
“We won’t be able to get to secondary roads until we get the primaries in good shape,” she said.
Teresa Hamilton Hall, a spokesperson for Appalachian Power, said that 60 additional line mechanics had been brought from West Virginia to AEP’s Roanoke District, which includes Henry County. More line mechanics can be pulled to the area if needed, she said.
However, Hall said she did not expect that extra line mechanics would be necessary, as AEP meteorologists did not anticipate high winds or ice accumulation with this weather system. Wind and ice, she said, pose the greatest danger to electrical lines, while snow is more manageable.
According to a release from the city of Martinsville, the city police department and city fire/EMS department asked that area residents limit travel as much as possible.
The Henry County Courthouse will be closed today due to the storm.
With more than 1 foot of snow forecast in some parts of Virginia, travelers are being warned that emergency roadside teams may be able to respond only to motorists in hazardous situations, The Associated Press reported.
The Triple A said that means motorists who are stranded in their driveways or other secure locations might be asked to stay put until conditions improve.
AAA spokeswoman Martha M. Meade said the auto club rarely limits calls, but this storm was shaping up to be especially challenging. In January, the Triple A Mid-Atlantic’s emergency roadside assistance topped 222,000 calls — the highest monthly volume on record.