PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency ahead of winter weather expected over the weekend for some parts of the state.
Hampton Roads is expected to just see rain and maybe a brief wintry mix, but western areas of the state are expected to see significant snow, sleet and ice late Saturday night through Monday. Northam’s office says some areas of Southwest Virginia could see a foot of snow.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also declared a state of emergency for his state.
“We expect this storm to have a significant impact in many parts of Virginia,” Northam said in a release. “Declaring a state of emergency now allows our emergency responders to prepare, and to move supplies and equipment where they expect to need them the most. This also gives Governor-elect Youngkin the ability to respond to any storm needs swiftly. I urge Virginians to take this storm seriously and make preparations now.”
Northam and state emergency officials conducted a joint call with Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin on Friday. Youngkin was sworn in as governor on Saturday.
Northam’s office parts of Virginia are still dealing with impacts of recent winter weather and the public should expected more power outages, downed trees and impacts on the roads. Earlier this month, snow and ice led to major stoppages on I-95 in the Fredericksburg area that stranded some people for up to a day.
Virginia transportation officials apologized this week for their response. Northam was criticized for not declaring a state of emergency to help those stranded but said that it wouldn’t have done any good. He said the issue for state crews wasn’t a lack of manpower, but the difficulty of getting workers and equipment through the snow and ice. He walked back other comments blaming drivers.
The Virginia Department of Transportation said it had begun pre-treating the roads in Hampton Roads Friday morning.
“We’re being told that early Sunday morning, for a few hours of the morning, we could anticipate some snow coming down and portions of the region,” explained Holly Christopher with VDOT.
Although we’re seeing mostly wet weather, early morning freezing temperatures have road experts prepping just in case.
“You know, weather can shift around here in a matter of a few minutes. At the moment what we understand, is that the coldest temperatures will be at the beginning of the weather event. So we want to be prepared in the event we do see any snow or any flurries that were coming down and address those potentially colder conditions.”
Crews also gathered materials and readied to address potential road impacts as the winter weather moves through the region this weekend. Crews will work in shifts for 24-hour operations to clear and treat the interstate as needed.
“VDOT maintains all interstates, major state-maintained primary routes, and county roads in Hampton Roads,” VDOT officials said.
VDOT advises drivers to stay off the roads if possible. If you must travel during adverse weather conditions:
- Allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
- Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind the vehicle ahead of you.
- Brake very lightly to keep your tires from slipping on pavement.
- Do not pass snowplows.
- Keep an emergency winter weather kit in your vehicle which includes food, water, first aid materials, tools and blankets in the event of a breakdown or stoppage.
Report road hazards or ask road-related questions by calling 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623).
In addition, the Coast Guard has modified Port Condition Zulu for the coastal waters of Virginia from Cape Charles Light south to the Virginia-North Carolina border effective 3:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Only approved vessels may enter, transit, move, or anchor within the closed area.
For urgent safety of life issues, please contact the Sector Virginia Command Center on VHF-FM Channel 16 or call (757) 483-8567.