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VDOT & VDEM prepared for back-to-back snow chances this week

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 12:41 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2022 at 5:39 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Forecasts in central Virginia are calling for another round of winter weather, and VDOT crews say they’re one step ahead.

Crews in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Richmond District are preparing their equipment and pretreating all interstates and major primary and secondary roads with saltwater brine in the 14-county district.

“Crews are just trying to rest when they can, take care of that, and then just work to get equipment ready, so we’re ready to go,” said VDOT spokesman Kyle Gibson.

VDOT said pretreatment is expected to be complete by late Wednesday. However, some people are surprised by the move since Thursday’s system is expected to start as rain.

“It’s look like a light rain, so at this point, teams decided it would be beneficial to pretreat because some of that could still be there for the snowfall,” Gibson said.

The hope is to have at least some pretreatment measures still in place and not simply washed away.

Even after the snow starts falling though, more treatment is done with salt on the highways and a mixture of salt and sand on the secondary roads.

“Then when you start to hit around the 2-inch mark in terms of the accumulation, that’s when you’ll see the plows really start to come out because otherwise, it’s hard to push when there’s not much accumulation on the ground,” Gibson said.

While not much accumulation is expected for Thursday, the Friday into Saturday system is what state agencies have their eyes on.

“We are in connection with the Virginia National Guard, and should they need to be activated, they know they are ready,” said Katie Carter, Regional Communications and Outreach Coordinator with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM). “We’re getting ready for the possibility of resources having to be doled out if those are requested based on different regions impacted by these winter storms.”

Preparation is key, and it’s something VDEM believes Virginians are taking seriously this go around.

“The I-95 incident earlier this month, unfortunately, it was a big lesson not only for agencies like VDEM, but for folks at home who may not have been impacted,” Carter said. “They at the very least heard about what happened, so it triggers something in their mind saying ‘Hey, I’m going to be on the road, so what do I possibly need.”

“We urge residents to prepare for winter weather now and stay up-to-date by checking the forecast regularly and downloading the 511 Virginia app,” said Gary Jennings, the Acting Richmond District Maintenance Engineer for VDOT. “Plan your travels before the Friday winter weather event and make plans now to remain off the roads over the weekend.”

Additional tips for drivers:

  • Crews will be patrolling district routes for accumulating snow and ice to plow or treat as appropriate, but drivers are advised to delay nonessential travel during winter storms. Follow all safety guidance from local officials and resources, and prepare now before precipitation begins over the weekend.
  • Give pretreating crews and snowplows plenty of room (at least 100 feet) and don’t pass them. Drivers may encounter slow-moving equipment on the roads during winter weather events. Please make sure to give VDOT vehicles room on the roads and be aware of your surroundings.

Carter said VDEM is consulting with the Governor’s Office about the upcoming snowfall.

The Emergency Operations Center will be partially staffed in-person and virtually on Friday and Saturday, but that could change depending on the weather.

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