Snow accumulations nearly one foot in some areas of SW Va.

Stephen Igo • Feb 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM

WISE -- The pre-St. Valentine's Day Snowblaster left nearly a foot of snow on some areas of Southwest Virginia by Thursday morning and the season's southern-born snowstorm wasn't through with the region yet by any means.

Schools were closed across the region, as were most county and local government offices including in Wise County, and residents mostly huddled indoors waiting to dig out. Wednesday night and Thursday morning posed treacherous driving conditions at best on all secondary routes -- for all practical purposes and only for the most intrepid of four-wheel drive equipped drivers, many secondaries were impassable -- and most people apparently had the good sense to get home and stay there.

"It's been really quiet, all night into this morning. Most people obviously heeded the warning and stayed home unless they absolutely had to go out," said Wise County Sheriff Ronnie Oakes shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday.

"But (911) Central Dispatch has been very quiet through it all, so far. The courthouse is closed. We just encourage people not to get out unless they absolutely have to. And it's still coming down (at 9:21 a.m.) and we're hearing anything from another 2 to 4 inches, so we don't know. Even sleet. We'll just have to see what comes next."

The Virginia Department of Transportation's winter strategy has long been to focus on primary routes first during snow events, and then the secondaries. This particular snowstorm kept snowplow crews -- both VDOT and contractors -- busy on primaries all night Wednesday into Thursday.

"We've seen snowfalls being reported anywhere from 8 to 10 inches throughout our four counties," said VDOT Wise Residency Administrator Allan Sumpter. The Wise Residency is responsible for highway maintenance in Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson counties.

"We've had reports of 8 to 9 inches in Lee, as much as 10 to 11 in Scott and the same in Wise. our crews have been working the primary routes all night. This morning most of our primary routes (such as U.S. Routes 23 and 58) are in minor condition with (wet but) bare pavement, and snow patches here and there. Salt and pushing has been working effectively all night, and our temperatures have been helping with that."

Secondary routes will have to wait a while, Sumpter said, as snow continued to fall across portions of Lee, Wise and Dickenson counties Thursday morning.

"Our secondaries are still in a snow covered state. We have some crews starting, as they can, work on secondary routes. However, we still have snow falling so we're going to have to continue to give some attention to our primary routes. In fact, I'm in Pattonsville (near Duffield in Scott County) and it's snowing pretty hard here right now," he said at around 9 a.m.VDOT across Virginia has been in around-the-clock mode since Wednesday as the storm boiling up out of the deep south took aim on the mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. states.

"We're in 24-hour operations until the snow stops and all of our primary and secondary routes are addressed. Once the snow stops -- and we can probably expect additional accumulations today -- it will probably be somewhere around 24 to 48 hours before we are able to get to all of our routes," Sumpter said.

Sumpter said traffic was light where he was traveling at the time but able to move well on U.S. Route 23 near Duffield.

"There's not an extremely heavy volume of traffic out right now. I've not seen what you might say is normal day to day traffic out at this point. It appears a lot of people have remained home today and that would really be good to do so if you don't have to get out and travel, especially coming out of secondary routes that are snow covered and still pretty slick at this point," he said.

The storm spared nary an inch of Virginia, hammering the central portion of the state with even higher snow accumulations and wreaking traffic havoc across the commonwealth.

In it's break of dawn Thursday report, the Virginia State Police fielded 2,240 calls for service from 4 p.m. Wednesday through 4 a.m. Thursday. During that 12 hour period state troopers responded to 841 traffic crashes and 515 disabled vehicles across Virginia.

As of 6:30 a.m. there were 16 traffic crashes being actively worked by troopers statewide. The majority of crashes involved damages only and no injuries. There were no traffic fatalities during the 12 hour period.

The VSP was advising Virginians to stay off the roads Thursday morning through the day until conditions improve, and not to call 911 or #77 on a cell phone for road conditions, as emergency lines must be kept open for actual emergencies requiring police, fire and/or medical response.

Road condition information is readily available by calling 511 or go to www.511virginia.org.

Meanwhile the VSP reported its divisional breakdown of traffic crashes from 4 p.m. Wednesday through 4 a.m. Thursday as 229 crashes, 85 disabled vehicles and 437 total service calls in its Richmond Division; 65 crashes, 51 disabled vehicles and 199 total service calls in the Culpeper Division; 139 crashes, 61 disabled vehicles and 276 service calls in the Appomattox Division.

In the Wytheville Division, 60 crashes, 82 disabled vehicles and 244 service calls; 178 crashes, 55 disabled vehicles and 410 service calls in the Chesapeake Division; 126 crashes, 117 disabled vehicles, 425 service calls in the Salem Division; and 44 crashes, 64 disabled vehicles and 258 calls for service in the Fairfax Division.

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