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Emergency crews get ready for snow, power outages

Milk. Bread. Shovels. Those are the ingredients for what’s become a tradition around these parts when a little snow is in the forecast: folks stock up on the essentials. Maybe it’s tradition because deep down everyone likes a little snow.

But this isn’t going to be a little snow. 

According to forecasters, it’s the big one — a colossal coastal system set to bring up to a foot or more of snow to Halifax County.

The last snow of similar forecasted amounts occurred here in the winter of 2009 and 2010. Snowfall projections from the weather models Wednesday into Thursday would rival these bigger storms from the winter of 2009 and 2010. 

At least two computer models show well over a foot of snow, according to the computer model.

WSET 13 Meterologist Sean Sublette said Tuesday, "No matter the specific number, all areas should prepare for a high-impact, plowable and disruptive snowstorm."

Heavy snow. Heavy wet snow. The kind that’s a pain to shovel and sticks to everything including tree limbs and power lines, which brings the possibility of power outages is forecast.

This storm means business. To that end the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for heavy snow that includes Halifax County beginning 6 a.m. Wednesday and lasting through 6 p.m. Thursday. 

Generally, 6 to 12 inches of accumulation is expected with locally higher amounts possible. Snow should start falling by Wednesday afternoon, if everything holds to the current forecast.

The snow is expected to begin here Wednesday afternoon with a day-time accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Wednesday night snow will continue to fall before 10 p.m. and then snow and sleet with a low around 26. 

Travel by Thursday morning will be dangerous — at best.

Rain, snow and sleet is forecast until 4 p.m. on Thursday followed by a chance of rain between 4 and 5 p.m. then a slight chance of rain and snow after 5 p.m. with highs reaching 37.

So far this winter we’ve only experienced clipper systems, as weather folks like to call them. These were fast moving minor snow makers that brought about 2 inches to the area. 

The ever-changing forecast — where totals seem to continue to creep upward — is all courtesy of a fresh supply of arctic air and a stalled frontal boundary. A “deepening” low pressure center will draw moisture out of the Gulf, which will fuel the heavy precipitation, according to the weather service.

 “Once the intensifying surface low moves off the Southeast coast and begins its track up the Eastern Seaboard on Wednesday night, winter weather will start lifting northward into the northern Mid-Atlantic states,” read a statement from the weather service 

With the possibility of a major storm may come some skepticism, especially for an area that’s generally on the low end of snow totals.  Any change in the track could mean sleet mixed in, which would keep accumulations on the low end.

The impact of the heavy snow accompanying this winter storm is expected to lead to slick and hazardous travel conditions as snowfall accumulates on roadways.

The heavy and wet snow may weigh down on tree limbs and power lines with sporadic outages possible.

The Virginia Department of Transportation also started preparing Monday for the forecasted snowstorm. Paula Jones, spokesperson with VDOT in Lynchburg, said crews started making brine and checking to make sure they had adequate supplies of materials.

VDOT crews were busy putting brine on U.S. 58 Tuesday in preparation for the winter precipitation.

Halifax County Emergency Services Coordinator Kirby Saunders said Tuesday all emergency services personnel were on standby and shelters will be opened when there is a need based on requests or widespread impact of the snowstorm. 

The public will be notified if shelters are opened, Saunders said urging persons to prepare for power outages by making sure they have battery powered radios to receive special notices.

“We are planning for 10 plus inches, and our main concern is power outages especially for those with special needs,” Saunders said. 

“If we get 10 to 14 inches, it may impact how we respond to day to day emergencies,” he said reminding people to only call 911 if they have a “true emergency.”

“We will be handling life threatening emergencies first,” he said noting emergency services is now in “increased readiness” mode.

Saunders also urged people to stay off the road and not to travel unless they have to once the roads become covered with snow and ice. If persons must get on the roads, the emergency services coordinator urged them to be prepared with blankets, bottled water and a cell phone.

He also urged people who have elderly family members to check on them before the snow and if needed move them into their home during the winter storm.

The emergency services department is increasing staffing of all emergency responders due to the threat of the heavy, wet snow.

“That’s going to be the greatest threat,” Saunders said, noting widespread power outages are anticipated.

“Now is the time to prepare, before the storm hits,” he added, urging people to stock up on batteries and water.

Throughout the storm, Saunders said persons can find updated information on the county emergency services Facebook page.

Maybe there’s one thing for certain: It appears the groundhog may know what he’s talking about. Punxsutawney Phil, the famed furry weather prognosticator, predicted a longer winter just a week ago.