Road conditions close schools, cause 100s of accidents

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The fourth winter storm of the season has come and gone leaving behind a fresh blanket of snow on the metro Richmond area.  For now things look clear, but the wind is the new weather worry.

At one point this morning there were more than 220 reported accidents on the area roadways. VDOT and the Virginia State Police are suggesting to stay off the roads.

Our First Warning Weather team of Tracy Lynn and Rick Brady said the accidents were about the worst they have seen, except when many roads were completely shut down during Tropical Storm Gaston.

Many roadways are still covered in a sheet of ice from yesterday's rain and freezing overnight temperatures. The Boulevard Bridge was closed but has since reopened.

Virginia State Police report that there were 709 accidents reported statewide, including 215 in the Richmond area. There were no fatalities, but statewide there were 72 injuries reported, with 20 coming from Richmond.

NBC12 meteorologist Andrew Freiden reports that a very strong arctic front moved through around sunrise this morning, dumping 2-4" of snow across much of the metro area.  Along with the snow came strong winds with gusts to 40 mph.  That created blowing and drifting snow, in addition to the snow that was falling, making for treacherous driving conditions.

That heavy burst of snow was more than we expected -- there were even reports of thundersnow across the region.  Thundersnow indicates extreme instability in the atmosphere and often brings snow of 2-3" per hour.

It all adds up to yet another impressive snow storm for the region, and caused many last-minute changes and problems for commuters, students and travelers.

After originally saying that school would be open and many students had been picked up by buses, many area school systems then closed and had to get the buses to turn around and return the children to their homes.

According to reports from NBC12's Aaron Gilchrist, as of 4:30 this morning, Hanover was the only major area school system that had announced it was closed. Henrico announced at around 7:30 announcing they were closed and that buses were taking children home.

Chesterfield made their announcement at just before 8 a.m. that their middle and elementary were going to be on a two-hour delay. By 8:30, they were closed and that they were monitoring the conditions before attempting to send the children that were already in school back home.

The City of Richmond schools had a similar delay, then change to close scenario.

As an example, in Henrico, bus drivers did pick up some of the elementary school students and began taking them to school when the decision was made to close. Bus drivers were called and told by the transportation supervisor to take the kids back home, or to the schools if there were no parents home at the child's home.

Henrico Schools admits they "messed up" this morning and are taking ownership over the situation. They apologized for any inconvenience parents went through.

All Amtrak service in the Richmond area is canceled. No train service at all for today, February 10. Consult for specific train information, or 800-USA-RAIL.

Forevast by region:

Metro Richmond to Tri-Cities:  Snow:  2-4" of blowing and drifting snow.  Snow ending around 9 or 10am. Very windy and cold.

North of metro area:  Blowing and drifting snow, ending mid-day.  Accumulations of 4-8" possible, with best chances for heavier accumulations Spotsylvania-north.

Northern Neck and vicinity might see snow continuing longer this afternoon.  2-6" is likely with higher totals possible.  White-out conditions likely with high winds.

Dinwiddie and South:  Around an inch of blowing and drifting snow.

We need your snow totals.  Post them on the weather blog.

Stay tuned to NBC12 and for more updates.

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