RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Friday issued a plea for Virginians to prepare for a potentially disruptive winter storm expected to impact the commonwealth on Sunday.
Forecast models on Friday indicated Wise, Lee and Scott counties could be spared the brunt of an ice storm that has had severe impacts across broad swaths of the nation’s midsection, but residents of those areas are accustomed to preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.
Current forecast models indicate potential areas of icing to be east, north and west of Wise, Lee and Scott counties, a horseshoe zone that perilously encircles the area.
VDOT Assistant Wise Residency Administrator Jackie Christian on Friday said the Wise Residency with responsibility for roads in Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson counties is on full alert.
“We’re looking at tonight, now. We’ve got a forecast that our temperatures will drop down so we’ll have some crews out in the early morning hours monitoring our higher elevations, our bridges and our cold spots,” Christian said.
“Road temperatures are supposed to get to the freezing mark at around 3 or 4 (a.m. Saturday) so we will have what we call our small monitoring crews out first. But everything is ready for a major event if it comes early for us, or we have a little more than we’re anticipating.”
Depending on the developing forecast, Wise Residency crews may be out through Saturday into Sunday as well, he said.
“We’re looking for the ice, but we’re hoping for rain. We’ll be prepared for either one,” Christian said. “This one is going to be a little tricky, depending on temperatures and moisture. We just want to make sure we have everything covered, though.”
The governor said while exact impacts were still uncertain as of Friday, he encouraged Virginians to make preparations now for possible power outages that could be lengthy if large amounts of ice accumulate on power lines and trees, as well as hazardous road conditions.
McDonnell participated in a full storm briefing at 1 p.m. Friday with representatives from the National Weather Service, Virginia State Police, the state departments of Emergency Management, Transportation and Health, the Virginia National Guard, Dominion Virginia Power and numerous other agencies and officials, including several members of his cabinet.
“It might be warm today, but the weather in the commonwealth is about to take a major change for the worse,” McDonnell said. “Based on the latest guidance we have received, it can be anticipated that all areas north and west of roughly Emporia to West Point to Lancaster County line will see some ice and snow beginning Sunday.”
The freezing line is expected to move inland after precipitation begins, McDonnell said, “but there is much uncertainty regarding how far west it will get, and at what speed. Areas such as Covington, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Staunton, Leesburg and Winchester appear to be the most at risk for a prolonged icing event. That means we could be dealing with power outages over a large, populated area.”
The governor’s office issued a number of storm preparation guidelines citizens can follow and are available at www.ReadyVirginia.gov.
Meanwhile, the governor’s office said the Virginia Emergency Operations Center has increased readiness levels to coordinate and report state agency actions. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is “fully prepared for this event, including placing hired equipment and tree removal contractors on standby. When rain ends (Saturday) VDOT crews will pre-treat roads in affected areas and increase staffing as needed.”
VSP troopers are on standby for immediate deployment and extended work shifts, and the Virginia National Guard is on alert if needed to assist localities.
Several National Guard units in northern and western Virginia have been advised to begin preparations, the governor’s office said, and major utilities serving all areas of Virginia are in contact and prepared to coordinate with the state’s Emergency Management office.