State crews work to keep roads clear as snow storm hits

Preparations underway for snowstorm

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Final preparations were made of Sunday’s snowstorm as the Virginia Department of Transportation continues to treat roads ahead of the winter weather.

Representatives from both the Department of Transportation and the Department of Emergency Management are on standby to keep people safe.

VDOT crews in Culpepper’s district arrived early Sunday morning to begin clearing roadways. They’ll focus on clearing interstates and primary highways, before secondary roads and neighborhoods. VDOT’s goal is to make all roads passable within 48 hours after precipitation ends. VDOT’s Culpeper District includes Albemarle, Culpeper, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties.

“We are watching what could be a major snow event this year,” Jeff Caldwell said.

Jeff Caldwell with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management says his crews are gearing up for what could be a dangerous snow storm for parts of the state.

“Our job is share information before an event, to coordinate any response activities and to make sure everyone from the locality level to the state level has what they need to address the storm," Caldwell said.

Governor Northam declared a State of Emergency Saturday morning.

Caldwell says this helps his agency.

“That helps mobilize additional resources from our crews at VDEM to the National Guard," Caldwell said.

“We prepare for snow season all year round and we are ready to go,” Virginia Department of Transportation’s Bethanie Glover said.

The Virginia Department of Transportation will start 12-hour shifts and has over 1,300 pieces of equipment to use when the snow starts to fall.

“We are wrapping up our brine operations now, pre-treating the roadways. So there’s less of a chance a bond between the roadways and ice that may form on the roads," Glover said.

VDOT is able to get a head start on the roads this year.

They have 62,000 tons of salt, 23,000 tons of sand and over 222,000 tons of brine.

“If you don’t have to travel during the winter storm stay off the roadways,” Caldwell said.

All agencies are asking people to stay off the roads, but if you must go somewhere, they offer this advice:

“Make sure you have an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you get stranded along the roadway with blankets and non perishable food items," Caldwell advised.

“Give cars in front of you a good five seconds behind them and to stay at least 100 feet behind snow plows," Glover said.

As everyone waits and watches what happens, these officials say they are ready to keep you safe.

“We will continue to work until all roads are safe for people who are driving," Glover said.

AAA is also urging drivers to use extreme caution if you must be out on the roads during the storm.

“Snow, sleet and rain combined with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark can result in layers of ice, topped with snow that are deceiving and extremely dangerous,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager Public and Government Affairs for AAA. “Drivers are urged to use extreme caution where precipitation of any kind is expected to fall and to avoid assuming that snowy roadways or those that appear wet are free from ice or safe.”

Here are several tips that AAA said to use while driving:

  • Watch for black ice. Although it is mostly invisible, pavement with black ice will be a little darker and duller than the rest of the road surface.
  • Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses. Bridges and overpasses freeze first and melt last. Therefore, use extra caution as the roadway leading up to the bridge may appear fine but the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
  • Travel gently. Drive, turn, and brake slowly. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Be extra aware of the traffic ahead. If you see brake lights, fish tailing cars, sideways cars or emergency flashers, slow down even more.
  • Control the skid. If you are approaching a patch of ice, brake during your approach. Applying pressure to your brakes while on ice will only throw you into a skid. In the event you find your car is skidding, ease off of the accelerator or brake, and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
  • If your car doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, you need to use the following threshold braking technique: Squeeze the brake pedal with your toes, and, when you feel the wheels begin to lock, ease off the pressure slightly and hold it there.
  • Guard against SUV overconfidence. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are great for initial traction and avoiding getting stuck, but once they are moving, they have the same difficulty keeping control and stopping as other vehicles.
  • Never use cruise control. Cruise control is not recommended when ice is on the road as the driver should be in full control of the vehicle at every second.
  • Drive in cleared lanes. Changing lanes unnecessarily puts you at greater risk of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that may cause you to lose control of the vehicle.

There are things you can have inside your home like backup generators, extra water and supplies to remove snow.

If you must drive, officials say you can dial 511 for the latest road conditions.

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