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Virginians stirring from winter smorgasbord

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 13, 2014 at 12:52 pm •  Published: February 13, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — More than a foot of snow in southern and northern Virginia sandwiched the slushy center of the state Thursday, with continued precipitation threatening to make a further mess of the roads.

Virginia State Police reported two weather-related road deaths and said troopers responded to nearly 2,000 crashes and disabled vehicles statewide since the storm rolled into the state Wednesday.

Schools and colleges were canceled statewide and many government offices closed or opened late. Richmond International Airport posted a long list of canceled flights.

Police, snow-clearing crews and the auto club advised Virginians to stay off the roads so plows could scrape off snow, ice and slush coating many surfaces, especially in western Virginia, the Lynchburg region and northern Virginia. The heaviest snowfall occurred in those areas.

While some portions of the state, such as coastal region, escaped the brunt of the storm, the National Weather Service said another band of snow could add several more inches in southern and northern Virginia and rain and sleet could seal it with a slick crust.

Snow depths ranged from 14 inches in Blacksburg and Salem to several inches in the Richmond area. A foot of snow also fell in some parts of northern and northwest Virginia as the storm moved north, bringing more snow to the D.C. region.

"We're not done with this by any means," Blacksburg meteorologist Robert Beasley said. "It's going to be really nasty."

Despite heavy, wet snow in some sections of the state, the state's two largest power companies reported scant power failures.

Dominion Virginia Power said about 1,500 of its 2.4 million customers were without power, while Appalachian Power Co. reported about 400 outages in far southwest Virginia. It has 1 million customers in Virginia and two other states.

The state's electric cooperatives had fewer than 2,000 customers without power, mostly in south and central Virginia.

While snow in Richmond had been turned to slush by rain early Thursday, the downtown area was largely abandoned except for public works crews clearing crosswalks along Main Street. Plowed snow was piled up along curbs.

Some saw opportunity in the winter weather, including a shovel brigade knocking on doors along the snow-covered sidewalks of historic Church Hill.

But business was slow for one such group of seasonal entrepreneurs, shovels propped on their shoulders, as they trudged through piles of snow.

David Jones, 51, said there were no answers at some doors: "People don't have to go to work so they're sleeping as long as they can."

He said homeowners who passed on services would regret the decision. "It is heavy," he said. "A lot of people think it's just snow. They don't understand it's wet snow."

The state's first road fatal occurred in Halifax County on Wednesday as the storm swept into Southside Virginia. State police investigators said the 55-year-old male victim was killed on snow-slick Route 501 when his car was hit head-on by another vehicle. His wife was hospitalized with serious injuries.

In northern Virginia, a state-contracted truck driver working to clear snowy roads died early Thursday after he was struck by another VDOT truck.

Through early Thursday, state police emergency dispatch centers fielded 3,348 calls for service. Troopers responded to 995 traffic crashes and assisted 904 disabled vehicles.

The majority of the crashes involved vehicle damage and no injuries.

The wintry weather in Virginia and elsewhere took its toll at Richmond International Airport.

Spokesman Troy Bell said 116 out of 144 flights had been canceled Thursday. He said it's likely the air disruptions will continue into Friday.

"This has been a costly storm," Bell said. "Tough on passengers, tough on airlines."

The Virginia Department of Transportation said 2,500 workers and more than 12,000 plows and other equipment were clearing interstates and primary roads, even as snow continued to fall in the northern part of the state.

Besides VDOT workers, the state has called in contractors to treat and plow road surfaces.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency well ahead of the storm, making hundreds of National Guard troops available for emergency situations.

The declaration also triggered the state's anti-gouging law, which is aimed at opportunistic merchants and contractors who jack up prices for products or services when customers are in a pinch.


Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at .


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