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Dennis Harris digs his daughter's car out on Fairy Street in Martinsville on Thursday. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Friday, February 14, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Local and state officials are recommending that people stay at home until temperatures warm enough to start melting massive amounts of snow that fell Wednesday and Thursday and road conditions improve.

That should happen today, as temperatures are forecast to rise to about 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Snowfall amounts varied as of Thursday afternoon, but the weather service reported that the area likely received the most snow it has seen since 1993.

The weather service, which keeps officially tallies, reported an average of 8 inches across the Henry County-Martinsville area. Amounts varied from 7.5 inches at Axton to 9.5 inches a few miles up the road in Chatmoss.

The weather service did not yet have any amounts for Patrick County, its website showed.

Martinsville’s water treatment plant on Clearview Drive reported 16.8 inches of snow had fallen there.

But those totals were increasing as snow and sleet, which tapered off around sunrise on Thursday, began falling again that afternoon.

City public works crews had worked overnight to make Martinsville’s major thoroughfares passable. They had started plowing residential streets as of midday, said City Manager Leon Towarnicki.

Still, roads were slick in a lot of places, said Bobby Phillips, the city’s emergency management coordinator.

Roads also were “pretty treacherous” in rural areas, said Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry.

In the county on Thursday, primary roads had improved a lot but were in moderate condition, whereas secondary roads were in moderate to severe condition, according to Lisa Price Hughes, resident administrator at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) office at Bassett Forks.

Moderate condition means snow-covered, she said, and severe means ice-covered with “some depth of snow.”

With Thursday’s snowfall, “it probably will be Friday” (today) before VDOT crews make significant progress on plowing area roads, Hughes said.

If the sun shines today, “it should help us quite a bit” by melting some of the snow, she added.

Officials reported many accidents and stranded vehicles along county and city roads for a few hours Wednesday afternoon after snow began falling.

But most people seemed to heed warnings and did not venture out, and the lack of traffic Wednesday night and Thursday helped VDOT and city crews get their work done, officials said.

“Once the bulk of the traffic got off the roads, things went smoothly” for the most part, Phillips said.

“Absolutely” stay home and “give the city and state time” to clear roads, said Interim Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady.

He, Perry and Hughes advised people to travel only in an emergency.

Appalachian Power’s website on Thursday afternoon showed no power failures in Henry or Patrick counties.

Towarnicki said a traffic accident on Church Street Extension on Wednesday knocked out power to 30 to 50 Martinsville Electric Department customers. Electricity was restored in 30 to 45 minutes, he said.

That apparently was the only power failure in Martinsville as of Thursday afternoon. Phillips said the snow was not as heavy and wet as forecasters anticipated, so it did not weigh heavily on trees and power lines.

The weather service expected up to five additional inches of snow to fall across the area before stopping Thursday night, its website showed.

Phil Hysell, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Blacksburg, said any melted snow on roads likely will freeze during the next few nights as low temperatures drop into the 20s.

A small weather system could bring “a very minor accumulation” of new snow tonight, Hysell said.

However, “a significant warming trend” is coming, he said.

Daytime high temperatures will be above freezing at least for the next few days, the forecast shows. Temperatures are expected to rise into the upper 50s on Tuesday and lower 60s on Wednesday.


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