Vehicles drive along snow-covered Moreland Drive Thursday afternoon in Colonial Heights. Photo by Wes Bunch.
After getting drenched with more than 5 inches of rain over four days, the region was hit with a snow storm Thursday afternoon that brought down power lines and gridlocked traffic, leaving many motorists stranded.
Northeast Tennessee received from 3 to 5 inches of snow, while Southwest Virginia received from 6 inches to a foot of snow.
Two Kingsport city school buses with students on board got stuck in the snow, one on Fairview Avenue near the Midfield Market, the other on Skyland Drive near Memorial Boulevard. School officials worked through the afternoon and evening to get the students home.
Appalachian Power reported Thursday evening that more than 9,500 customers were without power in Sullivan County, approximately 3,800 people were without power in Scott County and about 1,800 were without power in Hawkins County.
In Wise County, Old Dominion reported that 367 customers were without power late Thursday. Appalachian Power said that 300 of its Wise County customers were without power.
Traffic on a number of roads throughout the region was completely stopped Thursday evening, including traffic on parts of Interstate 26. Law enforcement officials urged residents to stay home.
Kingsport Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds said high levels of traffic and additional snow snarled many roads in the city, with Fort Henry Drive and Memorial Boulevard backed up Thursday evening as motorists tried to get home.
Road crews were unable to pretreat streets and highways because of the heavy rainfall early Thursday. But Kingsport’s Streets and Sanitation crews began scraping and salting the streets soon after the snow began falling Thursday afternoon, working throughout the evening and night keeping the primary routes within the city as clear as possible.
In Scott County, emergency management officials said between 6 and 8 inches of snow had fallen countywide as of Thursday afternoon.
Snow accumulation caused the awning at the Big Break No. 2 Exxon in Weber City to collapse Thursday evening onto a parked car, Scott County Emergency Management Director Jeff Brickey said. No injuries were reported in that incident.
Central dispatch also reported that snow caused a tree to fall on a home located on Boone Street in Weber City.
“We’re asking people to stay in place and stay warm through the night,” Brickey said. “If they don’t have power in the morning, we can see what can be done in terms of shelter.”
The snow-related problems come a day after heavy rains caused the Clinch River and North Fork of the Holston River to overflow their banks in many areas. Several major creeks, including Copper Creek, Big Moccasin Creek and Stock Creek, were also in flood stage Wednesday.
The Clinch River reached a crest of 22.5 feet Wednesday night, two feet less than was originally projected. The North Fork also surpassed its flood stage of 12 feet, cresting at 13.2 feet Wednesday.
Brickey said much of the water was receding before the snow began falling.
“The water has gone down, we’re getting in pretty good shape,” Brickey said. “The rivers have crested and come back down, but they could go up with this snow, so we it may push back up to flood stage for a little bit.”
The amount of rain caused Scott County officials to close a portion of 10 roads, including Copper Creek Road and the Clinch River Highway at Clinchport. A rock slide was also reported Thursday morning on Reedy Creek Road.
Most of the closed roads had been reopened prior to Thursday’s snow, central dispatch said.
Although snow had quit falling as of Thursday night, Brickey said officials would continue to monitor conditions for potential problems in the coming days.
“The cold weather may delay the melt off, but with the ground saturated, it could set the ground for another event in a week if we get a heavy rain or another heavy snow behind this.
By 1:30 p.m. in Wise County, officials reported driving conditions on U.S. Route 23 from Big Stone Gap north to Norton, Wise and Pound were growing more treacherous by the minute as a heavy, wet snow poured onto road surfaces.
What made things even worse, said Virginia Department of Transportation, Wise Residency Assistant Maintenance Manager Jackie Christian, was the stuff underneath the rapidly mounting snow. VDOT’s Wise Residency manages highway maintenance for Lee, Wise, Scott and Dickenson counties.
“It’s pretty rough out there right now in Wise County, particularly with that ice base underneath,” Christian said.