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Southwest Virginia braces for 'Frankensnow'

October 29th, 2012 3:11 pm by Steve Igo

WISE — Southwest Virginians were busy on Monday preparing for a wintry blast predicted by weather forecasters through Tuesday, an unwelcome Halloween prank by Hurricane Sandy expected to slam into the Northeastern United States Monday night.

Far from the eastern seaboard but on Sandy's target for a snowy thrust, the higher elevations of Southwest Virginia were already seeing some of the results by Sunday evening as a wet snow began to drape ridgetops.

Road crews were already on 24-hour work status on Sunday, according to Jackie Christian, assistant residency administrator of the Virginia Department of Transportation's Wise Residency that manages road maintenance for Lee, Wise, Scott and Dickenson counties.

"We actually kind of started Sunday evening getting our (snowplow) crews on 12-hour rotation as far as snow removal, and the expectation of potential problems with many of the trees still having leaves in them and that kind of thing. We have some of our contractors out now and some on call, we were manned and ready to go," he said Monday.

"Snow is our first concern, of course. The heavy snow that's predicted, and the winds. They're calling for heavy winds to start with, and we've already got some white rooftops here in Wise at this time."

VDOT's Wise Residency is fully stocked, as expected so early in the snow season. Christian said there are about 6,000 tons of road salt stashed in Jonesville to serve both Lee and Scott counties and over 5,000 tons reserved for Wise and Dickenson counties.

Besides the full capacity of salt reserves over 11,000 tons, Christian said over twice that amount is stockpiled abrasives, and the residency has over 50,000 gallons of liquid calcium chloride the crews blend with salt and abrasives during colder temperatures.

Christian said there will be no pre-treating road surfaces with this particular storm because it is preceded by rain. Rain "just washes" the liquid blend off and does little good, Christian said.

Last winter the four-county Wise Residency area enjoyed a mild winter. Christian hopes the pre-Halloween blast is not a precursor of a bad winter to come.

"It would be nice to have the worst of the season over with first, but it's not even officially winter yet," he said. "Besides the snow, our big concern with what may be coming at us with this one is the trees. Most of the trees still have leaves on them and that causes some concern with the big heavy wet snow we're expecting."

Snowfall predictions, as usual, range from a few to several inches across the region depending on elevation.

"Basically, we're looking over this 18-hour period from 4 (inches) to 12 (inches of snow), it all depends on the different elevations across our area," Christian said. There is one bright spot in the Halloween Sandy scare, he added.

"We just finished our dry runs," he said. "We did our all our snow equipment inspections. We installed our hoppers and plows and put them through a pretty rigorous inspection for the residency just last week. So that was very good timing in terms of having that completed."

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