(UPDATE AT 11 A.M. THURSDAY) The National Weather office in Blacksburg this morning elevated its winter storm forecast for Danville from an advisory to a warning for a heavy, wet snow accumulation of three to six inches and possibly higher.
A warning means that severe winter storm conditions soon will begin. The warning is in effect from noon to 1 a.m. Friday.
A low pressure system tracking along the coast is bringing the rain into the area, but colder air now situated west of the Blue Ridge Mountains will move into the area and cause the rain to change to wet snow.
Higher snowfall amounts will occur in the mountains, but a secondary swath of higher amounts could form in narrow bands that could reach the Danville higher, according to the National Weather Service. The rate of snowfall in the heavier snow bands could be about one to two inches per hour, resulting in rapid accumulations in a short period, especially later this afternoon and evening.
The storm will create hazardous driving conditions. Power outages also are possible due to the weight of the wet snow on power lines.
The power and light division of the Danville Utilities Department has placed its crews on standby.
“Crews are fueling and stocking vehicles for quick response to any area outages,” Ken Ashworth, director of the power and light division, said. “Additional contract personnel are on standby if needed to assist in the restoration effort.”
Ashworth also has scheduled extra telephone and dispatch personnel to handle any increase in call volume should outages occur.
Residents and visitors are urged to make individual preparations for the storm.
• Maintain a kit of enough provisions to sustain all residents in a home for at least 72 hours. These kits should include: a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, extra batteries, food that does not need refrigeration, a non-electric can opener (if kit contains canned food), bottled water, first aid kit, prescription medication or other individual needs and copies of important family documents such as insurance policies and identification.
• Individuals who are require the aid of electrical-powered medical equipment should have a backup plan, including being prepared to go temporarily to another location or medical facility with power.
• Families should stay in touch with elderly to make sure they are okay.
• Know the Danville Utilities 24-hour emergency number – (434) 773-8300 – so that it is readily available if needed to report a power outage. When calling, customers are asked to verify their telephone number and account number with the staff member or through the automated system.
Danville Utilities distributes electricity to approximately 42,000 customer locations in a 500-square-mile service territory covering Danville, the southern third of Pittsylvania County, and small portions of Henry and Halifax counties.
(ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 6:15 P.M. WEDNESDAY)
The National Weather Service office in Blacksburg has issued a winter weather advisory for a heavy, wet snow event beginning around noon Thursday and peaking during the evening rush hour before ending by midnight.
The advisory means those periods of snow will cause travel difficulties.
“The snow will be heavy and wet,” meteorologist Phil Hysell said. “A brief period of freezing rain may occur during the transition from rain to snow, but any icing will be light and confined to the higher elevations.”
At 3:56 p.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service issued a forecast that called for a snow accumulation up to two inches in the Danville area, with accumulations of four inches possible in Lynchburg and four to eight inches in the mountains.
The weight of the heavy snow likely will bring down power lines, causing power outages, Hysell said. Winds will be 10 to 15 mph, with gusts of 20 to 25 mph.
Danville Public Works Department crews will begin mounting plows and salt spreaders to its fleet of 22 trucks when they arrive to work Thursday morning. The department also has three tankers filled with brine, but the brine may not be of use in this storm event, said Public Works Director Rick Drazenovich.
“The problem is the roads are wet now and there is a 100 percent chance of rain Thursday morning,” Drazenovich said. “If we put it (brine) down and heavy rain precedes the snow, it is going to wash it away.”
Brine is a mixture of water and salt. The water in the brine evaporates, leaving the salt behind
on the road. The salt breaks the bond between the snow and the roadway, and it therefore helps prevent the snow from freezing onto roads and bridges.
Drazenovich said the plows generally encounter little difficulty in scraping heavy, wet snow from the roadways, depending on temperatures. Temperatures on Friday are forecast to reach the upper 30s to low 40s, which should be warm enough to prevent snow from bonding to the road surface.
Residents and visitors are reminded that snow and ice removal is accomplished on a priority basis. The top priority is main thoroughfares and collector streets leading to various emergency facilities. Second priorities are routes that connect to primary routes and bus routes. Only after primary and secondary routes are cleared is work begun on residential streets.
If the snow event ends around midnight Thursday, Drazenovich said the crews would make a final pass overnight on the main thoroughfares, and then move into the secondary routes. Crews could reach residential streets as early as mid-morning on Friday.
In preparing for winter weather, residents should consider the following tips:
• If snow or ice is in the forecast, always attempt to have a full tank of gasoline. In addition to the added weight to your vehicle, the extra fuel might come in handy if you become delayed in traffic or if you become stranded.
• Allow yourself extra time when preparing to leave for work or other destinations.
• Always clean off your vehicle before operation. Lack of visibility from poorly cleaned windows is dangerous when coupled with inclement weather. Always allow your car to warm up and keep in mind additional snow or ice on the roof, hood, or trunk of your vehicle, as it could become loose in transit. The sudden blinding by an airborne sheet of snow or ice can cause visibility issues for you or another motorist.
• Always wear your safety belt. The use of safety belts is proven to save lives.
• Start out slowly in the lowest gear recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
• Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges.
• Icy or wet roads can decrease your needed stopping times when braking. A four- to six-second following time rule is generally accepted; however, on wet or icy roads, increasing this distance to a minimum of an eight-second following time would be well worth the effort.