Hampton Roads cities are preparing ahead of winter weather that could hit this week.
As of Wednesday morning, forecasts show we could see some snow Thursday. Forecast models are still shaping up for Friday and Saturday, but right now the News 3 First Warning Weather team says the Euro Model is showing 8-14 inches for our region and the GFS Model is showing 4.5-9.5 inches, by 11 p.m. Saturday.
Due to the snow possibilities, cities have to prepare. News 3 has reached out to all of the cities and we are still waiting to hear back from some.
Here is what has been announced for each city so far:
Chesapeake Public Works Operations is in storm preparation mode today, January 19, preparing equipment and staff for winter storm response operations.
Public Works Operations will enter their storm response posture effective Thursday, January 20 at 7 p.m., where Operations staff will begin working 12-hour rotating shifts until conditions allow a return to normal posture.
Approximately 40 Public Works staff members will work each shift, including equipment operators, laborers and support staff.
The City has approximately 40 vehicles, including plows, trucks and spreaders, ready to employ for winter storm response operations.
The current forecast indicates a rain-first system, which then will turn into wintry mix and snow as the system moves through and temperatures drop. As a result, Public Works crews are not currently planning to employ widespread use of liquid brine pre-treatment on roadways, as rainfall would wash away the liquid brine solution. The exception to this are select bridges and overpasses that Public Works has identified as prone to early freezing/icing. Brine and/or sand pre-treatment will be used on these select bridges and overpasses to prevent or slow the development of icy conditions, but motorists should always drive with extra caution on bridges and overpasses, as these freeze before the rest of the roadway.
Public Works begins employing snow plow operations once snow accumulations reach two inches. Attempting to plow snowfall of less than two inches is largely ineffective, and could potentially damage equipment.
Public Works will plow emergency routes and primary routes first, followed by secondary and connector routes. The City does not plow neighborhood streets, private roads or driveways. Maps of these routes are available on the City website
As always, motorists are asked to only drive if absolutely necessary during extreme winter weather, and if you encounter snow plows or other equipment, please give them space. We recommend staying at least four car lengths behind the plows and spreaders. Do not assume the plow or spreader operator can see you as his field of vision is limited. Please use extreme caution when changing lanes near equipment, and do not pass plows.
Public Works is experiencing staffing shortages across several divisions, including Operations, which may result in impacts in snow response times. Public Works staff will execute the snow response plan as efficiently and safely as possible, but we ask for the public’s continued patience as we work diligently to clear roadways.
Hampton will start pre-treating roads with salt on Thursday morning, starting with bridges, overpasses and major intersections. The storm response center will be made operational at 2 p.m., and at that point, all calls about the weather will be going through that center and crews will be dispatched accordingly.
The salt will be used until the rain turns into snow or sleet, at which point they will switch to brine and - if needed - calcium chloride. Once the accumulation reaches 1-1.5 inches, they will begin plowing. Road crews will be working in 12-hour shifts starting at 6 p.m. Thursday. There are eight snow teams, each of which will be assigned specific zones within the city. Each team will have a Hampton police officer who can assist with traffic as needed.
After Thursday’s initial weather event concludes, they expect to start the process over again on Friday.
The city has as many as 90 vehicles that can be used in snow, including snowplows and various trucks that are either specifically designed for snow or which can be adapted for use in snow.
Because of the pandemic, the operations center will be broken into six separate rooms to facilitate social distancing, and a thorough disinfecting plan is in place for all vehicles.
Hampton also provided a snow removal map showing what routes the plows and trucks will take and it is shown below.
Winter returns today, as an arctic cold front moves across the area. According to the National Weather Service’s Wakefield Office, we should expect rain to change to wet snow this afternoon and evening, as temperatures fall to near freezing. A quick burst of 1-2 inches of snow could make for hazardous driving conditions later today.
A second, more significant period of accumulating snow is expected Friday morning through Saturday morning. A Winter Storm WATCH has been issued for our area for Friday into Saturday morning, meaning severe weather such as heavy snow or ice is possible in the next day or two.
Crews in Newport News are preparing accordingly. Our Public Works Street Maintenance Division has 25 snow plows, 9 salt/sand spreaders and 6 brine units mounted, and has over 2,000 tons of salt and 1,000 tons of sand on hand. Road crews have begun working 12 hour shifts around the clock and will stay in place for as long as needed. In the city, roads are treated/plowed in accordance with our Snow Removal Plan [r20.rs6.net], and like other Hampton Roads localities, Newport News does not plow subdivision/neighborhood streets.
Below are some winter weather tips to keep you safe as the storms move in.
- Continue to stay up-to-date on your local forecast as details develop.
- Stay off the roads, if possible, during the storms. If travel is essential, please visit 511virginia.org [r20.rs6.net] for road conditions BEFORE traveling.
- Charge your devices in case of power outages.
- Have flashlights and extra batteries on hand.
- Stock your pantry with extra food and water.
- Prevent frozen pipes by opening cabinet doors to circulate warmer air around plumbing and letting cold water drip from the faucet at a trickle.
- Check that your Carbon Monoxide detectors are working and have a battery backup.
The Newport News Department of Emergency Management hosted a Winter Weather Talk with NWS Meteorologist Jeff Orrock. View the program on the Newport News TV YouTube page [r20.rs6.net] for ways to stay safe during a winter storm.
If you go out to enjoy the snow, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer or heavy clothing. Protect yourself from Frostbite! Hands, feet and face are the most commonly affected areas so wear a hat, mittens (which are warmer than gloves) and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss. Keep dry! Change out of wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Snow shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks. Always avoid overexertion when shoveling. For additional tips visit the National Weather Service website [r20.rs6.net].
Norfolk has 23 plows, 16 trucks with plows on the front, and 21 spreaders to deploy during the event, according to Alana Smith with the public works department. She said they have 60 personnel per 12-hour shift, starting Thursday at 7 a.m. Smith said they will be treating primary roads first, then secondary roads. Crews began pre-treating bridges, overpasses, underpasses, and intersections Wednesday and will continue Thursday. Police and fire stations, hospitals, HRT and AMTRAK will also be on their list of priorities. She said neighborhoods will not be plowed.
"If they see our plows on the road, the best thing to do is to give them space, don’t follow too closely, don’t track them down, don’t speed around them, let them do what they need to do,” Smith said.
"The National Weather Service has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for the City of Suffolk and surrounding areas related to the threat of possible snow and severe winter weather conditions starting tomorrow, Thursday, January 20, 2022, continuing into the weekend. Forecasters are calling for rain Thursday which is expected to change to snow Thursday afternoon and evening following the passage of an Arctic cold front. A second round of winter precipitation is expected late Friday into Saturday morning.
The City’s Office of Emergency Management is coordinating with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and National Weather Service to monitor weather forecasts. City staff are preparing ahead of potential impacts to roadways and City services. Present plans call for Public Works Operations to begin 24-hour staffing on Thursday and remain in effect throughout the weekend to address any roadway issues including plowing which will begin on designated primary roads when required. Operations will consist of 12-hour shifts with each shift will having 20 to 24 trucks running with plows and spreaders.
The Roadway Division of Public Works is responsible for clearing snow and ice from Suffolk public streets. The primary purpose of snow removal is to clear snow for emergency vehicles, hospital access, and service vehicles such as school buses, public transit buses and refuse trucks.
With safety and emergency accessibility being the primary concerns, the first priority is given to all primary or main roadways, followed by secondary arterials and connectors. Neighborhood streets are cleared last and, due to the size of the equipment, configuration of neighborhood streets and the presence of cars parked on the street, may not be accessible by City plows. An interactive map of the City’s priority routes for public paved roadways within the City can be viewed online: https://suffolkva.maps.arcgis.com/apps/PublicInformation/index.html?appid=159217ab90c34c8da06e5a9207fea2af. Please note that removal timeframes and priority are subject to change with weather conditions.
City crews assess each snow/ice event for the best possible treatment plan. Depending upon conditions, roadways may be pre-treated in the hours before the onset of the winter event. This pretreatment may be a wet salt solution (brine) or a dry mixture of sand and salt (abrasive). Pretreatment can be used to help reduce icy conditions but may not be the only required treatment."
“We need space, we need time, we want to do the best that we can for the citizens of the city of Suffolk, we want to make our roads safe we want to make them passable but we can’t do it when we have people out in the way of the trucks and spreaders,” said Karl Marshall, Sr., assistant director of Suffolk's Public Works Department.
With the approaching storm, VB Public Works is preparing storm operations and will be offering updates throughout the next few days. Some things you should know:
- The Public Works department has 30 trucks prepared with 3000 tons of salt, 415 tons of mixed abrasives, and and 3000 gallons of brine. We will be keeping a close eye on the track of the storm and are ready to begin treating the roads and streets based on the most current forecasts.
- Virginia Beach has more than 900 lane-miles of primary roads and an additional 300 lane-miles of priority secpndary streets to plow. Once the storm begins, crews will be operating on 12-hour shifts and will continue to do so.
- We do not plow residential neighborhood streets; we would need approximately 300 snow plows if we were to plow residential streets. Having the equipment and personnel to do that is extremely costly and not an efficient use of funds with the few winter storms we get.
- If the storm interrupts residential waste collection on Friday, it most likely will be picked up on the following Monday the 24th. Regardless, collections will resume as soon as conditions allow. Please put your can out by the curb as usual and leave it there – crews will get to it as soon as possible.
- Normal yard debris and bulk item collections will also be suspended at the same time.
- The Landfill and Resource Recovery Center will operate on the same schedule as other City facilities and offices. If you have any questions, please call 385-4650, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or visit www.vbgov.com/wastemgt
- If you see downed trees blocking City streets, please call 311 (landlines within city limits) or 385-3111.
- City officials urge residents and visitors to please stay off the roads if possible; if you must be out, please give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Drive with caution, and if the plow trucks are out treating the streets and roadways, please give them plenty of room to do their work. The roads are unsafe and cars on the road hinder cleanup efforts.
The City of Portsmouth encourages citizens to be prepared as the National Weather Service (NWS) Wakefield has issued a Winter Storm Watch for rain, freezing rain, and snow from Thursday night through Saturday morning for Southeast Virginia which includes the City of Portsmouth. The current forecast of the NWS is provided below and it includes heavy snow, with up to seven inches possible. Residents are reminded to maintain situational awareness and to exercise extreme caution at all times during this winter weather event and recovery. As you ready and stock your homes, vehicles, emergency supply kits, please scroll for important safety information and tips, and for more resources to help you prepare and respond, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management or Ready.gov.
The Department of Public Works is fully stocked with sand and salt and has the City’s 10 plow and salt spreader trucks prepped and ready. Staff will begin working 12-hour shifts for 24-hour operations beginning Thursday morning at 7 a.m. The Office of Emergency Management and public safety personnel, staff from the Departments of Public Utilities and Parks and Recreation, and additional essential personnel from City Departments will be monitoring weather conditions for the duration of the weather event, preparing, and responding as needed.