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Winter storm wallops state

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS -

NORFOLK — Virginia was pelted Monday with a wintry mix of snow and sleet from the mountains to the coast that prompted school closings, flight cancellations and government agency closures.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency to allow state agencies to prepare to assist local governments in responding to the storm, which was expected to cover most of the state. More than 70 Virginia National Guard soldiers were staged at readiness centers along the northern Interstate 81 corridor to respond if needed.

The National Weather Service says snow accumulations could range from 2 inches to 4 inches in the southern parts of the state and Hampton Roads to between 8 inches and 10 inches in northern Virginia. Airports in Roanoke, Richmond, Newport News and Norfolk reported numerous flight cancellations and delays.

Virginia State Police troopers responded to more than 300 traffic crashes across the state between 12:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Monday, with about half occurring in the Richmond area. Local authorities were also responding to accidents as road conditions worsened throughout the day.

In southeast Virginia, the Navy told thousands of sailors and civilians at its installations to go home early before the storm struck. Fort Eustis in Newport News and Langley Air Force Base in Hampton were only open to mission-essential personnel. Many local government offices, colleges and school systems were also closing early, as were many businesses and areas popular with tourists, such as Colonial Williamsburg.

Snow covered a thin layer of ice in the nation’s capital Monday, driven by a blustery wind that stung the faces of those who ventured outside. Officials still warned people to stay off treacherous, icy roads — a refrain that has become familiar to residents in the Midwest, East and even Deep South this year.

The early closures resulted in heavily congested roadways in some parts of Hampton Roads as people went home early, with backups extending for several miles along interstates in the region. Snow and icy conditions contributed to much of the congestion, as well as traffic accidents.

On the Eastern Shore of Virginia, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility was also closed for the day. As much as six inches of snow was forecast to fall on northern portions of the Eastern Shore.

About 410 customers were without power by mid-day Monday, according to Dominion Virginia Power. About 300 of those were in northern Virginia, although power outages also were reported around Richmond, in the Shenandoah Valley and in Hampton Roads.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said rain Sunday and overnight prevented crews from pretreating roads. VDOT said it would plow interstates and primary roads before moving onto more heavily traveled secondary roads. VDOT said its goal is to make at least one pass on all roads within 48 hours after the storm ends.

Near Fredericksburg, VDOT said its crews were repeatedly plowing the travel lanes on Interstate 95, where there were isolated areas of snow and slush, with snow-covered shoulders. Subdivision streets and secondary roads that carry light traffic were completely covered in snow, according to VDOT.

The department is advising motorists throughout the state to avoid travel if possible.

——

Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis

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