MGN online graphic.
WISE — Virginia Department of Transportation highway maintenance crews were preparing for an all night battle Tuesday night into today as the first major winter storm of the season was expected to bring accumulations of snow, and a potential of underlying black ice, across Southwest Virginia.
Snow accumulation predictions for overnight Tuesday into today were all over the board early Tuesday — from 6 inches or even more possible on the highest elevations to less dire predictions of less than 6 inches — as the storm front began its onslaught with heavy periods of rain.
The rain was expected to change over to snow overnight Tuesday as temperatures dropped and the true brunt of the storm made itself known.
At VDOT’s Wise Residency headquarters that oversees snow and ice removal efforts in Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson counties, Wise Resident Administrator Allan Sumpter said Tuesday that work crews would be out all night trying to keep up with the storm.
“From our point of view the true battle in this storm appears to be coming tonight, so we will have our full complement of VDOT trucks and contractors out starting at 8 tonight monitoring, and start working the roads as called for,” Sumpter said Tuesday.
Sumpter was hoping the predictions for less than 6 inches of snow were the correct ones.
“It appears the higher elevations are calling for 3 to 5 (inches), the highest elevations such as the Black Mountain area and what have you,” he said. “For most other parts we’re seeing (predictions for) anywhere from 1 to 4 (inches). We’ll just have to see. It’s that time of year when you just don’t know what Mother Nature is going to give us, but we will try to deal with it the best we can.”
Because the predicted snow was preceded by considerable amounts of rain, Sumpter asked motorists to be aware that icing could be a problem into today.
“Tonight as the temperatures cool and the rain begins to change over to snow, there is always a possibility of black ice on the roadways,” he said. “So motorists really need to be careful and watch out for those types of problems.”
The storm front sweeping out of the Southwest — primarily out of Texas, began to make itself known across Southwest Virginia Monday night, but it was just the merest tease of what was expected into today.
A light dusting of snow fell in the Wise area and other higher elevations of the county from 9-10 p.m. on Monday, but Lee County got a countywide covering of about an inch of the white stuff, Sumpter said.
VDOT crews were out monitoring road conditions Monday night through dawn Tuesday.
“We had, last night, around 9 p.m. or so, where we saw some snow and ice accumulations in Wise and Lee, but it seems the heaviest was down in Lee County. Then it changed to rain overnight,” Sumpter said.
“We didn’t have any problems last night. Just whenever it was snow or ice falling or forming, we had to do some minor treating of some of the bridges and cold spots. But otherwise it was a pretty uneventful night, really.”
Sumpter resides about a 5 minute drive west of Jonesville and reported most of the Monday night snow was washed off by rain as he drove toward Wise County Tuesday morning, but slushy snow was still visible as he drove closer toward Dryden and then toward Big Stone Gap.
“There were still some ice accumulations on slopes you could see at that time, but it was more of a slushy type of ice. There wasn’t anything like that on the roads though,” he said.