Motorists slow to a crawl Thursday morning on Highway 11W, where numerous incidents where attributed to black ice. Photo by David Grace.
The Wise County Sheriff's Office reported 37 vehicle mishaps Thursday between 6-8:30 a.m. due to spotty icy conditions scattered around the county.
While warmer temperatures during the day helped clear the ice, Southwest Virginia road crews are now bracing for the snow that's expected later tonight.
"Going into this evening's forecast, depending on where you are in the four county area, we're looking at a possible one to six inches of snow, with the highest accumulations possible in the highest elevations," Virginia Department of Transportation's Wise Residency Administrator Allan Sumpter said. "Our plan right now is to have our night crews out around the clock, along with our contractors to assist us, and see what happens."
Icy conditions will continue to be a concern, Sumpter said.
"We're not sure what is actually going to happen overnight into tomorrow. However, the roadways are pretty well saturated with moisture now and with temperatures expected to go as low as forecast, even without snow motorists need to watch for black ice as they travel."
Sumpter said areas of Lee and Scott counties were the most affected by icy conditions early Thursday. VDOT's Wise Residency is responsible for road maintenance in Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson counties.
"We had temperatures that dipped right around the freezing mark right around early morning. Pretty much the biggest issues we had were in Lee and Scott. We had some black ice occur on many of our roadways and had several accidents," he said.
"Black ice is so much harder to see as drivers go down the roadway. We worked hard, diligently to try to address that. We had our primaries treated by 8 or 9 (a.m.) and then went to work on our secondaries. Fortunately, the temperatures were headed back up above freezing and that assisted us."
Thursday morning's freezing rains were only the precursor of a storm front that is forecast to leave snow in its wake overnight Thursday into Friday. Sumpter said VDOT and contractor crews will be out all night to deal with whatever comes.