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VDOT braces for below zero temps

January 6th, 2014 11:13 am by Stephen Igo

VDOT braces for below zero temps

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WISE -- Frigid conditions took a grip across the mountains of Southwest Virginia on Monday following a storm system that moved through the region Sunday night into the wee hours of Monday, with a blast of arctic air on its heels.

Temperatures that had already fallen from near 50 degrees on Sunday to the mid-teens by dawn on Monday were expected to be into the brutal sub-zero range Monday night into Tuesday morning.

The storm system began as rain late Sunday but evolved into snow showers overnight as temperatures plummeted, coating vehicles with a layer of crusty ice and roads covered in a layer of white by dawn Monday.

Road conditions were a bit dicey in many areas of Southwest Virginia, particularly higher elevation areas such as Pound, Norton and Wise, but Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) road crews kept busy clearing road surfaces as much as possible.

On Monday VDOT Wise Residency Administrator Allan Sumper said snow shower activity overnight into Monday were leaving a range of accumulations across the residency's region of responsibility that includes Lee, Wise, Scott and Dickenson counties.

"We're seeing accumulations anywhere from 1 to 3 inches in the valleys and throughout the area, to up to 4 and 5 inches in some of our extreme higher elevations. As of our 10 a.m. report, our primaries are showing minor to moderate conditions. The thing we're seeing a lot now is the harder snow flurries are covering roads back up so our crews are treating the roads as that happens," Sumpter said.

Secondary roadways were snow covered and deemed moderate condition as of 10 a.m. Monday, he said. Snowplow/salt truck crews will be out all night Monday into Tuesday, and icing conditions will be of particular concern because of temperatures that could be as low as 5 degrees below zero in places like Wise, and not a whole lot better elsewhere across the region.

"Temperatures had fallen all night long (Sunday night into Monday) and the forecast is for them to continue to fall, so we expect to be continuous with full crews all day and all night into tomorrow," Sumpter said.

Icy driving conditions weren't much of a problem by Monday morning but that could change Monday night and Tuesday, he added.

"In spite of the fact we had rain start at around 10 (p.m. Monday in Lee and Wise counties) we've really not seen much of a problem with black ice. We had crews out right around (10 p.m.) last night so we were prepared to deal with any problems at that time. Also, salt residue still on our road surfaces from previous storms probably helped keep icing from occurring," Sumpter said.

"But these temperatures will be challenging. Generally the salt will work down to right around 15 degrees or so. We do have trucks equipped with what we call saddlebags containing calcium chloride, and where possible we will pretreat the salt with sodium chloride and that will probably work down to 5 degrees or so," he said.

"When temperatures get down to zero or below, it does make it a little more difficult to get a response from the salt and calcium, so (Tuesday) morning with temperatures at around zero or below zero, we're asking folks to watch for black ice."

Monday night and Tuesday will be brutally cold with highs forecast only in the single digits, but things should ease back into more reasonable ranges as the week progresses, along with periods of more precipitation through the week into this coming weekend.

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