A snowstorm dropped more than two feet of snow in some parts of Madison County last weekend.
According to an observation report logged with the National Weather Service, Madison had 24.5 inches of snow thanks to winter storm Jonas. The storm started mid-late morning Friday and continued through Saturday evening leaving many snowbound in their homes for days.
Schools and businesses closed, with some remaining closed during the earlier part of this week. So far, Madison County Public Schools have been closed four days due to the storm, which brought the first major snow of the winter season. Prior to Jonas, snow activity was scarce with higher than normal temperatures and only a few flakes of the white stuff.
However, this past weekend changed that. Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Thursday morning to bring much needed resources and supplies to Virginians in the face of the storm. According to emergency coordinator Radar Finks, Madison followed suit and declared its own state of emergency at 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Around 5 p.m., Finks said he used a reverse 911 call to alert citizens of the impending storm and to urge them to prepare.
The county opened an emergency shelter Friday morning at 10 a.m. at the fire hall, staffed by Department of Social Services personnel and county offices closed at 11 a.m.
By Saturday afternoon, the National Guard was called in to assist and arrived with six members and two humvees.
Finks said they were multiple calls to emergency services throughout the storm, with a majority related to disabled vehicles. He said there was also one house fire which resulted in four fire trucks becoming stuck. A wrecker and VDOT sand trucks were used to get them out.
“We also had several calls were we couldn’t gain access,” Finks said. “We used the [National Guard] humvees and VDOT to do so.”
Finks said some roads were impassable, even with VDOT due to six to eight foot snowdrifts. He said VDOT had to bring in special equipment to access those roads.
Overall, however, things could have been worse. Finks said there were three to six individuals in the emergency shelter at all times until it closed Monday at 10 a.m. The National Guard left Sunday afternoon.
“We had 16 rescue calls and eight fire calls,” Finks said. “Other than the house fire, no storm-related damage has been reported. Overall, everything worked really good.”
Despite local utilities urging customers that the snow and forecasted high winds would result in power outages, only one section of Madison had power-related problems. Finks said approximately 239 homes in the Happy Hills area lost power, but the problem was fixed very quickly by Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC).
Meanwhile, Virginia State Police responded to 8,412 calls for service statewide from 7 a.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Monday, including 1,562 traffic crashes and 2,502 disabled vehicles. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported (as of Monday) that there were six storm-related deaths in Virginia with one traffic fatality and five hypothermia related deaths.
As of Tuesday, VDOT crews were still restoring roads to their proper conditions with many of the main roads cleared and work on secondary roads ongoing. The Culpeper VDOT office reported that cleanup from this storm was extensive and required use of specialized equipment to remove up to 30 inches of accumulated snow, plus large snow drifts.
Residents were encouraged to be mindful of temperatures and the chances of icy spots even on cleared roads. To check road conditions, visit 511Virginia.org.
Orange Review Staff Writer Sandy James contributed to this report.