The first winter storm of the new year slowly rumbled into Central Virginia on Tuesday, prompting the Wednesday cancellation of Charlottesville and Albemarle County schools, community events and leaving motorists braced for icy commutes.
Snow began falling at midmorning on Tuesday, and by mid afternoon accumulations reached a couple inches with more expected in the late afternoon and evening amid growing cold.
“Temperatures will be falling this afternoon, and we sent out a warning for four to eight inches,” said Andy Woodcock, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sterling. “There is a big area over Kentucky that’s coming this way.”
Albemarle police put extra officers on patrol in anticipation of increased calls, spokeswoman Carter Johnson said, although call volume was below average for most of the day.
“So far, we have had one crash, and I am not sure it was weather related,” she said. “We still encourage people to stay off the roads if the weather continues to deteriorate.”
In the city, it was business as usual, said Charlottesville police Lt. Ronnie Roberts.
“The streets are just wet here, so we have not had any issues,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “As far as preparations and stuff, we have the four-wheel drives ready to go in case things take a bad turn. … It’s better to go ahead and be prepared.”
Officials canceled city and county schools and a board meeting at the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center and postponed the Charlottesville Investment Collaborative’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday.
The Charlottesville City Council slated for Tuesday evening was rescheduled to 7 p.m. Wednesday.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner was scheduled to speak to about 100 students Tuesday afternoon at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia. The program was delayed briefly and relocated to a different location on Grounds.
Following the snow, Woodcock said, a blast of cold air will keep roads slick and the ground covered at least through Saturday.
“We don’t have any hope of warm air through the weekend … the upper levels of the atmosphere are kind of stuck,” he said. “You have a big ridge of high pressure along the West Coast, and it is causing the cold areas of low pressure to push into the eastern United States.”
Daytime highs for the rest of the week are not anticipated to exceed the mid 20s, which means snow will not go anywhere once it falls, Woodcock said.
“You might get above freezing. We have some upper 30s predicted over the weekend, but I think that might be a little on the aggressive side,” he said. “[The snow] will slowly settle, so there won’t be quite as much tomorrow as there is today, but I don’t think you’re going to see the bare ground anytime soon.”
Virginia Department of Transportation crews worked roads in Albemarle and the surrounding counties, though only Greene County reported snow on the roads, said spokesman Lou Hatter.
Roads north of Charlottesville in Greene were in minor condition, meaning there were patches of snow and ice, Hatter said, while U.S. 33 going over the mountains was mostly covered.
Despite the lack of daytime accumulation, Hatter said, falling temperatures and an expected second wave of snow could make roads worse going into Tuesday evening.
“We are cautioning motorists to not get too overconfident with the lack of accumulation that we have seen, because any moisture on the roads will likely freeze overnight,” Hatter said. “We would still encourage people not to go anywhere if they don’t have to until the storm passes.”
Dominion Virginia Power officials expected few service interruptions from the storm, but were prepared for the worst, said spokesman Dan Genest.
“Right now, things are all very calm, and we don’t anticipate any huge operational problems from this storm. Since it will be so cold, it will be a dry powdery snow,” he said. “Mother Nature does have a mind of her own, so we are prepared for anything.”