WISE — Southwest Virginia highway maintenance crews battled bitter cold temperatures along with light accumulations of snow overnight into Friday and will be working around-the-clock possibly through Sunday.
Snowfall accumulations across Southwest Virginia weren’t significant, as predicted between 1 to 3 inches fell across the region in most places, but coupled with temperatures into the single digits in some areas, it was more than enough to pose slippery driving conditions during Friday’s morning traffic rush.
As of 9:15 a.m. Friday, Jackie Christian, the assistant administrator of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Wise Residency office, said most secondary routes across the region were still covered by snow with crews working major corridors such as U.S. Route 23 reporting snow and ice patches.
Intermittent sunny skies throughout the morning on Friday would help the cause, he said. VDOT’s Wise Residency manages highway maintenance in Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson counties.
“The way the temperatures are early this morning — they just kept dropping through the night — is not helping a lot in our snow removal. But the sun, even a little bit of sun, will help,” Christian said.
“In some places, especially where there is packed material from traffic, is where it becomes a little tricky. We’re using chloride plus liquid chloride mixture that works at 15 degrees pretty good,” he said. “It’ll help even when we get down into the single digits. A brine solution gets you better cleaning and penetration down into the pavement.”
The arctic blast now holding sway was preceded by unseasonably warm temperatures earlier in the week culminating in heavy rains on Wednesday that swamped many roads, particularly in Scott County, and caused a number of minor slides across the region. Christian said all routes but a few in Scott County were passable again by Friday.
“Most of our routes now, as far as high water is concerned, are open. We’ve still got a few in Scott County that are damaged and we’re still working on. The majority of our routes are open now, however we had that snow and cold temperatures overnight from Lee through Dickenson, and we’re focusing on that through the weekend, it looks like, from this point on.”
Additional light accumulations forecast for Saturday into early Sunday will keep crews rotating around the clock on 12-hour shifts. Christian said the Wise Residency has about 100 snowplow crews across the four counties and another 100 or so contractors on call as needed. Some contractors work every snow event and others are called on during more significant winter events.
“We’re working with these colder temperatures and the forecast is for additional snow (on Saturday possibly through early Sunday) so we will have our crews out on a 24-hour basis monitoring and cleaning,” he said.
“We’ve told our crews, basically, we’re working 24 hours until further notice. Our supplies are good. Salt supplies are adequate. We had a little chance to restock this past week.”