Governor Bob McDonnell today encouraged Virginians to prepare for a potentially disruptive early-season winter storm that will affect the Commonwealth this Sunday. While exact impacts are still somewhat uncertain, Virginians should make preparations now for possible power outages, that could be lengthy if large amounts of ice accumulate on power lines and trees, as well as unsafe road conditions. The Governor participated in a full storm briefing at 1 p.m. today with representatives from the National Weather Service, the State Police, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia National Guard, Dominion Virginia Power, and numerous other agencies and officials, including several members of his Cabinet.
Speaking about the storm, the Governor remarked, “It might be warm today, but the weather in the Commonwealth is about to take a major change for the worse. Based on the latest guidance we have received, it can be anticipated that all areas north and west of roughly Emporia to West Point to Lancaster County line will see some ice and snow beginning Sunday. After the start of the precipitation, the freezing line will begin to move inland, but there is much uncertainty regarding how far west it will get, and at what speed. Areas such as Covington, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Staunton, Leesburg, and Winchester appear to be the most at risk for a prolonged icing event. That means we could be dealing with power outages over a large, populated area. With this forecast in mind, I ask all Virginians to take the necessary precautions today to ensure they are prepared for any possible losses of power during a cold weather period. Please check your batteries, flashlights, and lanterns. Power your mobile communications devices now and make sure they are fully charged. And, as always, please check on your elderly or house-bound neighbors, family, and friends in particular to ensure they are ready for this storm and any possible inconveniences or interruptions that may result.”
Virginia state agencies, local governments, power companies and telecommunication providers are taking all necessary and prudent steps to ensure they are prepared for whatever weather might impact the Commonwealth.
The following steps have already been taken to prepare for the storm:
· The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is coordinating preparations at the state level, including holding conference calls with the National Weather Service, local governments and other state agencies.
· The Virginia Emergency Operations Center has increased readiness levels to coordinate and report state agency actions.
· The Virginia Department of Transportation is fully prepared for this event, including placing hired equipment and tree removal contractors on standby. When rain ends tomorrow, VDOT crews will pre-treat roads in affected areas and increase staffing as needed.
· Essential Virginia State Police staff are on stand-by with all troopers, supervisors and selected civilian staff statewide prepared for immediate deployment and extended work shifts based on the storm.
· Virginia National Guard is on alert if needed to assist localities, and several units in northern and western Virginia have been advised to begin preparations.
· The Virginia Department of Health is coordinating with hospitals and local emergency services departments.
· Private sector power companies and telecommunications providers are coordinating with the Virginia Emergency Operations Center on storm preparation efforts. Administration officials have been in direct contact with representatives from Dominion Virginia Power and other Virginia power providers.
Citizens Can Help
· Get where you need to be before the weather gets bad. If possible, delay travel on Sunday to allow VDOT crews to clear the roads. Most accidents happen within the first two hours after a storm begins. If you must drive, wear a seatbelt.
· Monitor media outlets for notices of closures of government offices or private operations to avoid unnecessary travel.
· Get current road condition information by calling 511 or visiting www.511Virginia.org.
· Make sure you have essential supplies on hand: at least three days of food that does not require refrigeration or electricity to prepare; at least three days of water (one gallon per person per day); a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio to get information from local media; a family emergency plan.
· Visit www.ReadyVirginia.gov for additional information and download the new Ready Virginia app for iPhones and Android devices.
· Charge all mobile communication devices now.
· If you lose power, call your power company to report it.
· Do not operate generators indoors. Follow manufacturer’s directions exactly.
· Only call 911 for life-threatening emergencies.
· Please bring in all pets from outside during the storm.
· Local governments may open warming centers or overnight shelters in affected areas. Get shelter information from your local emergency management office or by calling 211.
· If you need assistance for a person with special needs, call 211 or visit www.211virginia.org. All referrals are confidential.
VDOT crews ready equipment and supplies in advance of snow and freexong that is forecast for Sunday
Beginning late Saturday morning, VDOT staff and contractors will pre-treat Interstate 64 and Interstate 66 as well as Routes 29 and 250 and select other primary highways in the Culpeper District. The pre-treating process, also called brining, involves applying anti-icing chemicals to the road before a storm to prevent snow and ice from sticking to the pavement.
Crews will report to work at midnight Saturday and will treat the roads with salt and sand as precipitation begins. The sand increases traction and the salt helps melt snow and ice and prevent it from bonding to the road surface. Operators begin plowing once the snow accumulates and the salt takes effect. Crews will focus their snow and ice control efforts first on the interstates and primary highways, then will shift resources to the secondary road system as conditions allow.
Motorists are encouraged to stay home during the height of the storm. Freezing rain is extremely hazardous and, if travel is unavoidable, motorists should observe the following precautions:
· Slow down and allow for extra time to reach your destination.
· Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges.
· Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road.
· Do not pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary.
Motorists should check VDOT’s 511 travel website, www.511virginia.org, before leaving on a trip. The website is updated in real time with weather and road conditions for all highways in Virginia. Once on the road VDOT’s 511 mobile app provides real-time traffic and weather information for both iPhone and Android platforms. Travelers can also call 511 from any telephone in Virginia for real-time information on traffic and road conditions.