PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Heavy rain, flooding and high winds caused significant issues on the roads in Hampton Roads and eastern North Carolina on Monday, ahead of snowfall that began to appear in parts of the region in the afternoon.
The region was spared from the heavier snowfall that caused major issues in other parts of the state, including on I-95 in the Fredericksburg area where hundreds of drivers were stuck for hours due to the snow and ice. Many people were still trapped as Tuesday morning.
Thousands of people lost power during the inclement weather. Dominion Energy says its crews worked throughout the day to restore power to 40,000 customers across Hampton Roads and northeast North Carolina. Customers can report an outage or downed power line using the Dominion Energy App, by calling 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357), or online at www.dominionenergy.com.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, only about 350 customers were still without power. Virginia Beach and the Virginia Peninsula were hit the hardest with high winds, which caused downed trees and limbs and knocked over power lines. Power will be restored to the majority of customers by late Wednesday evening. Some restoration will extend into Thursday.
Dominion said nearly 400,000 customers across Virginia experienced a power outage since early Monday morning, making this one of the top five winter storms in Dominion Energy Virginia’s history.
Wind gusts were around 40 mph, with up to 50 mph closer to the coast in Virginia Beach. Those high winds continued through the day, but tides were expected to recede after peaking around high tide Monday morning.
As the Super Doppler 10 Weather Team forecast, the rain switched over to snow in Hampton Roads in the afternoon. Some areas, such as Williamsburg and Gloucester saw accumulation, but snow in the metro region mostly melted due to the amount of rain on the roads/ground temperatures above freezing. Expect slushy conditions, although VDOT treated the roadways.
Virginia State Police said its Chesapeake Division responded to 48 disabled vehicles and 145 traffic crashes as of 8:30 p.m. Monday, and troopers responded to more than 1,000 crashes between 12:01 a.m. Monday to 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Local public transportation was also impacted. Hampton Roads Transit warned customers to expect some delays. Williamsburg Area Transportation stopped operating at 4 p.m. WATA services will be delayed on Tuesday; service was set to begin at 9 a.m.
Still, VDOT and other agencies warned that cold temperatures could still freeze wet roads, making travel potentially hazardous, especially in areas that saw more precipitation.
Call 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623) to report road hazards or ask road-related questions at VDOT’s 24-hour Customer Service Center.
The rain proved to be a real pain for VDOT crews.
“A wet roadway turning to ice is the worst thing we have to fight,” explained Hampton Roads District Maintenance Manager Bill Collier.
All the heavy rain Sunday night and Monday morning made pre-treating roadways worthless, he said, since it all would’ve washed off. Instead, crews must wait for the changeover to snow or the temperature drop.
“I’d rather have six inches of snow than a quarter-inch of ice,” Collier told WAVY.
It’s much easier to plow snow than to keep roads, ramps and intersections salted.
VDOT warned that heavy snow rates Monday evening could lead to slushy or icy conditions as the storm moves out through the east.
“Things may look wet, but at any given time, those temperatures could drop just enough. The same goes for tomorrow morning,” Collier warned drivers.
While VDOT is prepared for this storm, and the season, with more than 25,000 tons of salt, more than 8,600 pounds of sand and 168,000 gallons of brine, we asked if high rates of community COVID cases could threaten staffing.
Collier said: “We’re down 10 people throughout the district who are involved in snow operations.” That’s out of about 250 employees, including supervisors and mechanics.
“We do have an adequate staff to keep things safe our response isn’t going to be lessened by those 10 people,” he said.
They will be on the roads 24 hours a day until the pavement is dry and safe. So, when you see them, be patient and give them some space, Collier said.
In Virginia Beach, salt and brine trucks were expected to be out overnight into Tuesday morning, Drew Lankford, a spokesman for the city public works department, said.
“The few advantages of what we saw today is a lot of that wind dried a lot of the roads and streets off better than we normally would when we have a storm,” Lankford said. “There are still a lot of side streets, neighborhood streets and some roads that still have enough water on the side that didn’t drain or dry. We are concerned about black ice.”
He said anyone who comes across a slick spot in the city should call 411 and report it.
Flooding caused much of the issues for Virginia Beach roads during the day on Monday as well.
The sand trap alongside the Princess Anne Golf Course’s seventh green became a water hazard, mostly full of river water rainwater.
Some trees came down and took down lines, too. Dominion Energy was out fixing what trees broke, and the cavalry arrived from North Carolina to help out. Five utility trucks lined up in the Princess Anne Country Club golf parking lot ready to work.
10 On Your Side found Austin Hall, who was sitting in one of those trucks visiting from Aberdeen, North Carolina. Hall works for Lee Electrical.
“There are a lot of trees down here, wind and snow bring down the lines … so everybody needs to stay off the road, and the weather is pretty bad right now … if you ever see lines down contact your power company,” he said.
Some people like Lynette Harrell remembered that 75-degree weather not too long ago.
“You have to be careful … people have been hydroplaning, but you can if you are not careful … my advice to people is stay home if you can … and get out of my way,” Harrell said with a laugh.
Winds were strong enough to make moving cars go where the driver didn’t want them to go.
“I was up on 264, and I went from the third lane to the first lane, and I didn’t turn to do that … I was pushed by the wind … it kinda freaked me out because I wasn’t expecting it. The high gusts like that get you quick,” Chris Theodosiou told us.
We also met Linda Silkwood, who drives for DoorDash. Unfamiliar with the roads in Bay Colony, the flooded roads left her lost in how to reach an address for delivery. We found her near a flooding water gauge that showed the flooding was two feet above the road.
Silkwood, dealing with too much water, had to call the customer. Finally, the customer showed up for Silkwood and she delivered the sandwich from Taste Unlimited.
As high tide rolled in during Monday’s stormy weather, the intersection of Hampton Boulevard and Lexan Avenue in Norfolk disappeared beneath a layer of water a few feet deep.
“It was is a swimming pool, lake, river, whatever you’re want to call it,” said Larchmont neighborhood resident Carson Foster.
The flooding made it nearly impossible for most cars to pass.
“That’s my street right there,” said Foster, pointing across the street. “I was going to try and make a left as soon as I came over the bridge but I can’t because the water is up to almost knee level and nobody’s making that turn.”
Some drivers stalled out in the flooding and left their vehicles on the road, opting to trek through the water to get to their destination.
Tow trucks rescued countless cars from the scene.
Many drivers tried to cross the median to turn around, a few prevailed but many found themselves stuck.
As the day went on and the tide went out — the water went down.
While residents are used to flooding problems in this part of Norfolk, Monday’s flooding was the worst they’ve seen in a while.
“It floods pretty regularly but not to the point where the light is green and people aren’t going straight through it,” said Foster.
Here’s where poor road conditions were reported elsewhere in the region:
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was closed to all traffic due to high winds, but reopened with restrictions.
There was also a wind advisory for the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel (gusts are expected to stay around 40 mph through Monday afternoon).
In addition to the Hague, bad flooding was reported in Larchmont at Hampton Blvd. and Lexan Avenue. The flooding is affecting Hampton Roads Transit routes there and throughout the region.
Flooding was also reported in East Ocean View. Here are photos from David Waters on 6th Bay Street. The East Ocean View Community and Senior Center is closed Monday due to the flooding.
WAVY viewer Joey Ritchie reported significant flooding in Yorktown off Date Road, and that water was at the highest level he’d ever seen it — an hour and a half ahead of high tide.
Tides were up high in the Pasture Point neighborhood in the downtown Hampton area.
The Peninsula was expected to see snow first late this morning. Here’s a dashcam photo from WAVY Chief Photographer Jeff Myers driving on westbound I-64 toward Williamsburg around 8:30 a.m. Monday.