Region braces for possible weekend winter storm

Road crews were making preparations Wednesday for a winter storm which could possibly arrive over southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia this coming weekend. Forecasters with the National Weather...

Road crews were making preparations Wednesday for a winter storm which could possibly arrive over southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia this coming weekend.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va., have been tracking a weather system that is moving across the southern United States after it brought rain to California. Now meteorologists are watching to see how the weather system interacts with moisture off the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. By the time it reaches the vicinity of Texas, forecasters will have a better idea how much snow could reach the region, according to meteorologist Phillip Manuel.

Any snow that arrives could start falling late Saturday night and into Sunday morning, and potentially “bleed over” into Monday morning, Manuel said. How much snow could fall had not been determined as of Wednesday.

“In terms of amounts, it’s way too early to assign numbers,” Manuel said. “There is the potential there for a significant snowstorm in the mid-Atlantic region, and that would include the Bluefield area.”

By Friday, forecasters will have a better idea about the potential snowfall.

“The Virginias, potentially into the Carolinas, may see the first major snow storm of the season, not counting the ice we’ve already had so far in November,” Manuel said.

Communities were preparing for the possibility of plowing large amounts of snow off their roads. Bluefield City Manager Dane Rideout said the city was watching forecasts and getting ready for snow removal.

“We’re planning for the worst, and anything less is a good thing,” Rideout said. “Obviously we’re doing a lot of preparatory maintenance.”

City vehicles are being prepared and checked, and there was plenty of mixed salt and cinders on hand, he stated. Like the rest of the nation, Bluefield is monitoring a nationwide salt shortage. Primary roads and important routes such as the ones leading to Bluefield Regional Medical Center will have priority if heavy snow falls on the area. Then secondary roads, smaller routes and alleyways will be plowed.

“I guess the biggest thing is to be patient and we’ll get through it,” Rideout said.

Bluefield has over 30 miles of state highways inside the city limits. The state is responsible for plowing them. The city has to plow John Nash Boulevard all the way to the Bluefield Industrial Park, Rideout said.

“The Department of Highways helps with that as well, but we have the responsibility,” he said.

Rideout said that based on safety, he will decide whether Bluefield Area Transit buses will run if heavy snow arrives.

In Princeton, Public Works Director Jackie Phillips said his department was watching the forecasts, too. Some estimate as much as 6 to 8 inches of snow while others predict 2 to 4 inches.

“I’m going ahead and putting the rest of my plows on and making sure we have plenty of salt and cinders, and fueling up all our trucks,” he said.

Preventative maintenance such as checking the vehicles’ hydraulics and running gear is being done,too. Phillips estimated that the city had about 300 tons of salt and 600 tons of cinders on hand.

Michelle Earl, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said that the state was watching forecasts.

“It’s really varying by outlet so we really don’t have a clear indication right now,” she said of the weather predictions. “Once we have more confidence in the forecast, we will mobilize accordingly. For example, we had little snow last night so we didn’t have our full crews out. If the high end of the forecast will come, we will have ample crews out for snow removal.”

“Friday will be the day we really solidify our plans,” Earl said.

Representatives of the West Virginia Department of Highways were not available Wednesday because state offices were closed in honor of the late President George H.W. Bush.

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