Monday’s snowstorm shuttered schools and government offices giving everyone some extra time for winter break. Snowfall measured from five inches in the western part of the county to approximately 12 inches in Lorton.
By Sunday afternoon grocery store shelves were nearly empty. The Chantilly Wegmans produce section was almost bare, and orange juice and milk supplies were scant as well by 5 p.m. That night around 9 p.m. a Chantilly resident lamented the empty bread shelves there. “It’s a little snow coming, not nuclear winter,” said Mark Franke in a post on Facebook.
While pretty in some places and fun for sledding, the snow proved dangerous on the roads as Virginia State Police (VSP) and Fairfax County Police asked people to stay home. As of midmorning Tuesday, authorities were advising drivers to avoid traveling Interstate 95 through Fredericksburg which had been closed for about 50 miles in both directions 3 a.m. Tuesday. Hundreds of cars were stranded overnight as efforts were underway to remove the vehicles, clear and treat the roads. Spin-outs included cars and tractor trailers and the effort was also hampered trees that had fallen in places. All drivers had been evacuated by Tuesday afternoon and the road was reopened that night, thought there were still 50 to 60 vehicles abandoned on the road.
From 12:01 a.m. Monday to 10 a.m. Tuesday, VSP had responded to 231 disabled vehicles and 125 crashes in the Fairfax Division, according to Corinne Geller, VSP public relations manager. Similarly, Fairfax County Police Department responded to 103 crashes, 231 disabled motorists, and 212 traffic hazards. According to a FCPD spokesman, a traffic hazard can be trees or wires down, debris or ice in the road or a car in the road. “It really is all encompassing of something that could present a traffic hazard or block a roadway,” they explained.
Traffic wasn’t the only issue however. Hundreds of thousands of residents were without power across the state.
Fairfax resident Shirley Howe said her husband saw the power lines come down near their house of Route 123 before lunch on Monday. “I think it was the weight of the snow,” she said. “The pole came down and there was this big flash of light. She added that one of her neighbors said that other poles had fallen further down the street as well.
It was about 4:30 p.m. that afternoon they gathered their children and two dogs and went to go to a hotel, she said. “I realized we would be in darkness and nothing was going to get fixed.” According to Howe their power came back on around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and they were able to return home.
Dominion Power was reporting Wednesday that there were still nearly 3,000 customers without power in Fairfax County.
Another fast-moving storm was expected late Thursday night into Friday morning. “We are looking at another chance for some plowable snowfall amounts,” said Storm Team4’s Matt Ritter. He characterized the storm as energetic.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Wednesday as the state braces for more snow at the end of the week. The governor’s office said the system is likely to cause more fallen trees, power outages and interrupt travel.
“Having two bouts of snow and icy weather back to back makes it more likely communities will need additional help as they continue to recover from the first round of tree-snapping wet snow and ice that we saw Monday” said the governor.
VSP encourages Virginians to be weather aware, plan ahead and avoid traveling during inclement conditions. “Back-to-back storms are nothing new for the state police or Virginia,” said Maj. R.C. Maxey, Jr., deputy director of VSP Bureau of Field Operations. “State Police is prepared for this latest round of winter weather.” Maxey said all available troopers would be on patrol, shifts would be extended and they would redirect resources as needed.
Some good resources to check during storms include the Virginia Department of Transportation, Ready Fairfax, Fairfax County Government social media pages and Ready.gov.