WISE -- Brutally cold temperatures will keep an icy grip over the region Wednesday into Thursday morning, presenting a challenge to Virginia Department of Transportation and contractor snowplow crews across Southwest Virginia's Wise Residency region of Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson Counties.
The latest arctic blast settled over the region Monday, seized firm control Tuesday with snow accumulations ranging from an average of around 4 inches across most of the residency to up to nearly 6 inches in some areas of Lee County, Wise Residency Assistant Administrator Jackie Christian reported Wednesday.
Temperatures were below frigid. The Town of Wise reported 2 degrees below zero at around dawn and managed to creep all the way to 1 degree above zero by around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday en route to a predicted daytime high of 22 degrees, still well below freezing but perhaps enough -- coupled with blue skies and ample sunshine -- to help area road conditions before plunging back into the near zero or sub-zero range overnight into Thursday.
Snowplow crews worked through the night Tuesday into Wednesday, and will do so again into Thursday morning. Christian reported primary roadways in the four county area mostly clear with snow and ice patches, and all secondary roads snow covered Wednesday morning.
"Due to the low temperatures it creates a task, with temperatures working against you like this morning," he said.
With higher elevations, Wise and Dickenson Counties generally report higher snow accumulations than Lee or Scott in most winter storm scenarios. Lee County topped the snow list this time around, Christian said, with between 5 to 6 inches. Accumulations in Wise, Scott and Dickenson Counties averaged "in the fours," he said.
"Still, this extreme cold means roads are slick and very hazardous driving conditions, especially on our secondaries," Christian said. With 22 degrees forecast as Wednesday's high temperature, "anything at or around 20 (degrees) or below salt doesn't activate very well. We're using some calcium chloride mixed with our salt and that usually helps a lot."
Overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, Christian said road crews "mostly worked to get abrasives on the roads for traction to keep the traffic moving."
VDOT residencies in the southeastern portions of Virginia put out a call to other VDOT residencies to standy by for possible assistance, including the Wise Residency, but Christian said the Wise Residency needed all its assets and resources.
"The Hampton Roads area contacted us yesterday for assistance if needed," he said. "Several extra VDOT crews went in that area yesterday, but I'm sure glad our crews stayed because we need all we have right now."
The Wise Residency's battle plan for Wednesday through Thursday is to keep working, Christian added.
"Today we're hoping the sunshine will help us a little bit. I just talked to several of the crews and they are branching onto secondaries as we speak," he said.
"Although temperatures are supposed to get into the low 20's, the sun still helps with the salt. Then another cold forecast for tonight. All of our crews are looking foreward to that forecast for Saturday and that 50 degrees. They've been working 24/7 for seems like weeks. They've earned some well earned rest, I should say. We've got a lot of work to do today."