Intense cold weather grips area as first flurries of 2018 fall

Temperatures around Southside have certainly taken what forecasters have called a “polar plunge” recently, with unseasonably cold temperatures gripping the area since the last few days of 2017. Not only has the arctic blast been felt locally, but states all over the U.S. are dealing with dangerously low temperatures, in addition to Winter Storm Grayson- a snowmaker responsible for dropping between one and three inches of snow locally and over a foot in other areas.

The recent artic blast has broken temperature records across the country. As of Tuesday, 24 record low temperatures had been shattered.

Richmond tied its 90-year record low temperature on Tuesday. On Wednesday, temperatures in Richmond were lower than temperatures in Anchorage, Alaska.

New York City hasn’t seen one day of above-freezing temperatures since Christmas.

The cold weather has been blamed for at least 20 deaths across the country, including the death of an 81-year-old Newport News man who was found “frozen to death” on the steps of a church recently.

Dead sharks are washing up on the beaches in Massachusetts, apparently after suffering from “cold shock.”

On Tuesday morning, as most were returning to work following the holiday, temperatures in Mecklenburg were in the single digits, with wind chill factors near zero.

Due to the cold, several schools in North Carolina delayed students returning to school on Tuesday, following the holiday.

Mecklenburg County Public School teachers returned to work under a one-hour delay due to frigid temps on Wednesday, although students weren’t due back until Thursday. The social media post that advised teachers of the delay cited poorly working furnaces as the cause.

Clarksville Town Manager Jeff Jones, on Wednesday said that he had heard several residents talking about frozen and/or burst water lines. At least one subdivision, Springfield Place near Mill Village was without water after a main line froze. As of Wednesday morning, workers were still trying to restore service to the homes.

According to Chase City Town Manager Angela Lawrence, while the weather has been brutally cold with some citizens experiencing frozen water issues, the town has seen only minor problems.

At the Chase City Community Ball Park, pipes froze and burst in the building between the two ball fields. Water mains throughout the town, had remained open and the town water system had experienced no problems.

At least one business in South Hill had fire department units respond after a water line involved with the building’s sprinkler system burst.

The Bracey subdivision of River Ridge also experienced some water system issues related to the cold weather.

After dealing with dangerously cold temperatures for days upon days, Winter Storm Grayson moved in on Wednesday evening and began dropping snow across Mecklenburg.

The National Weather Service issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for Mecklenburg County, effective Wednesday night through Thursday night, in preparation for the forecasted frozen precipitation, in addition to the frigid temperatures expected to plunge back into the single digits over the weekend.

“Another period of frigid weather is expected Friday and Saturday, with wind chill advisories potentially being needed,” the outlook advised.

Brunswick County was placed under a Winter Weather Advisory on Wednesday afternoon.

South Hill Police Department posted warnings to social media on Wednesday, advising citizens to please use caution and be safe in the snow and freezing temperatures.

Wake County Schools in North Carolina dismissed early on Wednesday due to the extreme cold and incoming snow.

On Wednesday, the Virginia Department of Transportation could be seen on Mecklenburg roadways, pre-treating streets in preparation of the arrival of Winter Storm Grayson.

The National Weather Service issued Blizzard Warnings ahead of Winter Storm Grayson, for areas of Virginia including the Newport News/Virginia Beach/Portsmouth area on Wednesday, while local forecast called for a coating to three inches.

Later on Wednesday, a State of Emergency was issued in Virginia. Gov. Terry McAuliffe advised that 300 National guardsmen had been deployed and more than 1,000 pieces of equipment were en route to the coast to assist with snow removal.

Mecklenburg County was issued a Special Weather Statement on Wednesday night as “a band of snow flurries” extending from Mecklenburg to Louisa counties began dropping snow.

Snow began falling locally about 10 p.m. on Wednesday evening as Winter Storm Grayson worked its way up the east coast, continuing on and off until the wee hours of Thursday morning. The storm had already dumped snow from Florida to the Carolinas, giving Charleston, SC its third largest snow event in the city’s history.

On Wednesday evening, Mecklenburg County Public Schools issued first, a two-hour delay, then closing for Thursday, ahead of the snow, once again citing issues with the heating system. Schools were also closed on Friday due to lingering snow and ice on secondary roadways as well as the ongoing mechanical issues regarding the heating systems.

Although pre-treated, Mecklenburg road conditions began to deteriorate by about 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, with several crashes reported during that time, including one on Fort Mitchell Drive in the Chase City area and another at the intersection of Union Level Road and Highway 47. A third crash took place early on Thursday morning along Hwy 903 in the Bracey area.

Visibility on Mecklenburg roadways was reported at a half a mile around 11 p.m. on Wednesday night, making travel conditions fairly hazardous.

Mecklenburg fared far better in the storm than other locations along the Commonwealth’s coast and in the capital however. Virginia State Police report responding to 226 traffic crashes and 171 disabled vehicles in the Richmond and Chesapeake districts.

The Virginia State Police Area 22 office, which encompasses Mecklenburg and Lunenburg Counties report responding to only nine weather-related crashes between the onset of the snow and 9 a.m. on Thursday morning.

“We were fortunate locally,” stated Area 22 VSP First Sgt. S. Leslie. “Areas to our east fared much worse. We continue to advise people to not travel during winter events unless necessary. This is not only for safety, but it allows road crews to conduct their vital work of clearing roadways.”

South Hill crews began plowing roads Thursday morning around 2 a.m.

“By the end of today they hope to have plowed all streets in town at least once, with priority on main roadways for additional clearing,” Kim Callis, South Hill’s Town Manager stated on Thursday afternoon. “Please understand that plows cannot completely remove all snow, so with the extremely cold temperatures expected over the next few days there will be refreezing, especially in shady areas that receive little or no sun.”

Callis continued, “We ask that people drive only as necessary, and that drivers please slow down, increase following distances, watch for pedestrians and children playing in the snow, and just generally exercise an extra measure of caution until warmer temperatures arrive and the melting begins.”

“Slow down and build in some extra time to get where you need to go,” advised South Hill Police Chief Stuart Bowen on Thursday.

“This morning, the primary roads were in fairly good shape,” said County Administrator Wayne Carter on Thursday. “VDOT was getting started on the secondaries.”

Carter said that the actual condition of the roads varied from area to area because the amounts of snow varied from area to area.

“We had anywhere from a dusting of snow to one to three inches, depending on the location.” Carter added that as predicted, the heaviest snowfall fell in the eastern half of the county. However, he said, the snow fell in “bands” and that just a few miles could make a big difference on how much snow was actually seen.

Carter said that by Thursday afternoon, there had been some melting in the area however, with temperatures expected to drop into the single digits on Thursday night, re-freezing was likely.

“Conditions could be worse in the morning, depending on how much melts and how much re-freezes,” he said.

Carter also said on Thursday that while the county does see temperatures in the single digits from time to time, the recent cold snap had brought below freezing conditions “for a long period.”

“Fortunately, we didn’t get any snow or freezing rain at the beginning of it.”

According to Clarksville Town Manager Jeff Jones, Virginia’s only lakeside town saw only between half an inch and an inch of snow. There was, he said, some impact on roads but the impact was minor.

“Secondary roads are still covered,” said Jones on Thursday morning. “Primary roads are open. People are getting around and the roads aren’t terrible. People have to take their time but the roads aren’t terrible,” he repeated.

Jones added that town crews will be working on roads throughout the day but with winds expected to rise and temperatures expected to drop, he did ask drivers to use caution throughout the day and evening hours.

In Chase City, snow totals and road conditions were just about the same.

“At this point, we can’t plow and streets are still slick,” said Town Manager Angela Lawrence shortly before noon on Thursday. “We hope that once the sun melts some of the snow, we can throw out sand.”

Plowing the roads during the evening, she said, would have been useless. “With the wind so heavy, the wind would have just blown the snow back and,” she added, “we don’t have the ability to pre-treat the streets like VDOT does.”

Lawrence said that she was not aware of any particular problems or accidents related to the storm but like Jones, said she hoped people would remain aware of conditions and act accordingly.

“We hope people use precautions because it’s going to turn cold tonight and there will be some re-freezing. It’s no supposed to get above freezing again until Monday.”

Virginia State Police offer the following tips for traveling and staying safe during winter weather:

1. Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.

2. Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.

3. Make certain your tires are properly inflated.

4. Never mix radial tires with other tire types.

5. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.

6. If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.

7. Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).

8. Always look and steer where you want to go.

9. Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.

In addition to these tips, dress warm and have blankets in your car in case you are involved in an incident. Have a flashlight. Expect extended response from emergency services. Be alert for deteriorating roadway conditions once the sun goes down and temperatures drop. Icing of bridges and overpasses are a constant hazard in winter months.

We are a community, CHECK ON YOUR ELDERLY NEIGHBORS!

If you have questions regarding highway conditions call 511 on your cellular device or visit 511virginia.org on the web. Please do not call 911 or #77 for such questions. We want to keep those lines open for emergencies.

Additionally, authorities are warning that frozen bodies of water in the area may look solid but are not safe enough to walk out on.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office offers the following tips for staying safe in the extreme cold, “If you must be put doors, bundle up by putting on a few extra layers. Warm air rises to the ceiling turn your ceiling fan to the lowest setting reversing it so it runs in a clockwise direction this will push the warm air back down. Make sure to cover your head- you lose a lot of heat through your head. Keep space heaters away from anything flammable or combustible and always watch the kids around space heaters. Winterize your doors and windows using an insulator kit. Most home Improvement stores sell them, or use towels and rugs around doors and windows that have air coming through. Open your curtains during the day to allow sunshine in- this will warm house during the day, then close them at night. Close doors to chilly, less frequently used rooms. Make sure filters to the furnace are clean. Eat hot soup or drink hot beverages that will warm you from inside out. And always remember your pets need to make sure that they have a warm place to stay and plenty of fresh water to drink.

Forecasts call for temperatures to rise slightly through out next week, with a highs in the 50s predicted on Friday, Jan.12, and lows dropping to just above the freezing mark overnight. However, it gets worse before it gets better, with temps for the weekend still in the single digits overnight.

The National Weather Service, on Thursday evening, issued a Wind Chill Advisory for Mecklenburg, effective for Thursday and Friday nights, warning of windchill values below zero. Overnight Thursday, windchill factor plunged into the negative digits.

Additionally, The Weather Channel is predicting the possibility of a snow and rain combination overnight on Sat., Jan. 13, so please continue to monitor local forecasts to remain warm, safe, informed and prepared through out this ongoing winter weather event.

IMG_1373 copy