VDOT hopes to avoid "Son of Snowmageddon"

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Last winter, the snow could be measured in feet, paralyzing our area for days at a time. As Virginia prepares for winter, you're being urged to do the same.

Today the state outlined its plans for the coming months, and what you can do to get ready.

VDOT learned at least one thing from last season's extraordinary winter storms: That it didn't have enough money in the budget for cleanup. This season, that's changing.

For three months in row, central Virginians were reminded just how brutal and dangerous Winter weather can be -- images not lost on Virginia's top winter weather planners.

"We're hoping that this year is not gonna be Son of Snowmaggeddon, or, Part II," said Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton.

The above-average piles of snow in December, January, and February completely surpassed the pile of money saved to pay for their removal.

Last year, VDOT predicted it would spend $94 million on snow cleanup, but it ended up spending $267 million. So this year, the budget is up to $115 million.

"We are as prepared as you can be prepared," Connaughton said.

VDOT also has 48,000 tons of sand and 281,000 tons of salt, with the goal of making all roads passable within 48 hours after the storm.

"Hopefully we won't need to use it, but we have the capability and we are prepared to go forward," said Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker.

VDOT also will be tracking some of its plows with GPS technology, and monitoring road conditions with pavement sensors and video cameras.

The plan, as always, is to clear highways first, primary and secondary roads next, and neighborhood streets last. In some instances, localities -- not VDOT -- are responsible for their own neighborhood roads.

Yet, there remains at least some atmospheric evidence that this year's winter won't be anything like last year.

"We could have an increased risk for ice this winter across the Commonwealth," said Bill Sammler with the National Weather service. He added, "Will we have a repeat of last winter? The short answer to that, is no."

VDOT recommends choosing an out-of-town friend or family member to help make emergency arrangements, and talk with your family about what you would do in case severe weather makes it impossible to get home.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.


800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623) Report Virginia road hazards or ask road-related questions, 24/7.

www.virginiadot.org: Wealth of information on VDOT's news, projects, programs and other topics.

www.virginiadot.org/travel/snow.asp: Winter travel tips, photos, video and audio clips of snow removal operations and driving tips

www.virginiadot.org/about/emer_response.asp:  How VDOT prepares for emergencies and what citizens can do to prepare.

www.511virginia.org: Provides real-time updates on traffic incidents and road conditions.

www.ReadyVirginia.gov: A one-stop shop for emergency preparedness tips and information.


Severe winter weather can lead to injury and death from hypothermia, heart attack, stroke and traffic crashes. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) urges citizens to:

Get a kit. Emergency supplies for winter weather include – at a minimum – these basic items:  three days' food and water; a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio with extra batteries; and a family emergency plan. After getting these supplies, add a first aid kit, medications if needed, blankets and warm clothing, supplies for special members of your household, and pet items.

Make a plan. Choose an out-of-town relative or friend to be your family's point of contact for emergency communications. Decide on a meeting place if your family cannot return home because of closed roads. Discuss with your family what you would do in case of severe winter weather in your area.

Stay informed. Before, during and after a winter storm, you should listen for up-to-date information from your local media and emergency officials. Local media will give instructions from local, state and federal agencies that cover road conditions, winter storm watches and warnings, power outages and health information. Make sure your battery-powered radio is working and you have extra batteries in case the electricity goes out.