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VDOT braces for storm

February 12th, 2014 11:47 am by Stephen Igo

VDOT braces for storm

WISE -- Virginia Department of Transportation crews will be at their assigned work areas across Southwest Virginia no later than noon today, as a southern generated snowstorm is expected to hammer the region into Thursday.

At 9:15 a.m. Wednesday VDOT Wise Residency Administrator Allan Sumpter said crews in his residency's area of responsibility that includes Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson counties will be stationed by if not before noon to deal with whatever falls.

"I guess to the south and possibly toward the central part of the state are where the bigger accumulations are forecast. For us, anyway, we're getting forecasts of anywhere from 4 to 8 inches. Again, there are a lot of interpretations out there. The European (weather forecast) model shows a bit more for us, so we're in the wait and see for now," Sumpter said.

The Wise Residency has dealt with several winter events, as usual for the season, with snows and even a few ice events of not terribly significant accumulations since October, but problematic when tasked with battling hazardous driving conditions.

"We've been working the past few days to get our salt supplies restocked and our equipment that's been down repaired and ready to go," Sumpter said. "And we're working this morning to get contractor trucks to assist us" to deal with the latest winter storm to threaten the region. VDOT regularly incorporates contractors to help with winter storm events.

Sumpter said all of his crews and contractors will be ready.

"This one is forecast to move in after lunch. So our goal is to start getting trucks staged into their work areas by lunch time. We'll be in 24-hour mode beginning then until it's over," he said.

As usual road crews will be "concentration on our primaries first until they're clear, then our secondaries, then gravel roads and then the highest elevations last," Sumpter said.

"The one thing we have to see with accumulation amounts, if they are very significant there may be areas with steeper terrain and our extreme highest elevations that may require us to use heavier equipment rather than just trucks. Like graders and loaders. That would be a very significant storm."

A snowstorm that drops 8 inches or so in the lower elevation areas "might see 12 or 15 (inches) up there, like High Knob or Black Mountain," he said, "and in that case we would have to have our motor graders and heavier equipment to go in, so that would take longer than our lower lying areas."

Folks who don't need to be out this afternoon should stay in, he said. And everyone who possibly can, hopefully can be tucked into their homes before evening.

"This afternoon forecasters have been alerting the public, and until we see what kind of event we have, we encourage folks to stay off the roads this afternoon. And certainly be wherever you're going to be by tonight. Predictions are for heavier accumulations tonight."

The one silver lining to the storm will be the mercury, he added.

"We should not see extreme cold like the zero or below zero weather we've had," Sumpter said, "so we're hoping Mother Nature will aid us by keeping the temperatures warm enough so we won't have that hard pack freeze on the roadways."

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