As you are probably aware, portions of Virginia including the Northern Virginia area are expecting periods of heavy snow this evening and tomorrow. While details of how the storm will affect our area are always tentative, it looks like we may receive anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of heavy snow. I wanted to take a moment this afternoon to provide you with information and tips that you may find helpful as you prepare to weather the storm.
Traveling and VDOT
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has deployed more than 4,000 salt trucks and plows throughout Northern Virginia in preparation for the storm. VDOT is urging commuters to stay off the road on Thursday and let their crews clear the roads which are likely will be treacherous at times. Avoid driving unless absolutely necessary, because their snow removal work is much more effective if the crews do not have to work around passenger vehicles. If you absolutely have to go out, I would encourage you to call the business in advance, to make sure that they are open before you leave.
Major routes are treated with chemicals and plowed once two inches have fallen. In subdivisions and other low volume roads hills and other trouble spots are treated with sand and plowed when two inches have accumulated. In Northern Virginia, VDOT has one snow removal program for high volume roads such has Interstates 66, 95, 395, 495, Routes 1, 7, 15, 28, 50, Fairfax County Parkway, Prince William Parkway, etc.), and another snow removal program for subdivisions (main thoroughfares in neighborhoods, residential streets and cul de sacs). Therefore, crews will be working on high volume roads and in subdivisions concurrently. Within each of these programs, roads with the highest traffic volumes are cleared first.
VDOT reminds motorists to use caution when driving during wintry weather. Drivers should:
- Check current weather, road conditions and traffic before traveling at www.511Virginia.org or by calling 511
- Slow down and allow for extra time to reach your destination
- Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges
- Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road
Prince William County Government
No official announcements have been made as this point about Prince William County school system and government closures. Information about any Prince William County government closings will be posted at www.pwcgov.org, and information about any school system closures will be posted at www.pwcs.edu. Please be aware that if Prince William County Government declares unscheduled leave, some offices may be closed or have limited staff.
Electricity and Power Outages
This event could also lead to homes losing electrical service or other utilities. Residents are encouraged to charge mobile phones and laptop computers before the snow arrives and place flashlights in an easy to find location. Should you lose power, you should immediately contact your electrical provider. You may want to add these numbers to your cell phone now, just in case.
- NOVEC workers have fueled all utility trucks and loaded them with extra equipment. Tree crews have sharpened their chainsaws to be ready to cut trees off power lines. Extra damage assessment personnel will be scouting ahead of crews to help locate fallen trees and branches. And NOVEC’s System Operations Center will have all hands on deck. NOVEC warns customers to never go anywhere near a downed power line. If you see a line that’s down, assume it’s energized and deadly. Keep others far away and report it immediately. To contact NOVEC, call 703-335-0500 or 1-888-335-0500.
- Dominion Virginia Power is preparing for this storm and they are encouraging customers to do the same. This is a significant weather system and Dominion is closely monitoring weather forecasts and moving crews in advance of the storm to areas expected to be hardest hit by the event. Their crews and equipment are ready and they have called in additional resources. To contact Dominion, call 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).
Snow Removal and Safety Tips
Winter weather also poses challenges for Fire & Rescue personnel who need the ability to find those that need their help and quickly access fire hydrants. Following these tips will help keep response times as low as possible:
- Make sure the hydrant in your neighborhood is visible and uncovered from snow with a clear path for access. If you’re unable to remove the snow from around the hydrant, place 4-foot 1″ x 2″ orange-tipped stakes near the hydrants or spray paint the words “Fire Hydrant” in large letters on the snow directly in front of the fire hydrant.
- Make sure your address is visible. Fire & Rescue responders use maps to get them to the area, but they need to be able to see house numbers to ensure they are at the correct location.
- Make sure you have at least two clear exits out of your house. Keep an eye on snow build up. When the snow melts and refreezes, it could prevent you from being able to open the door and exit from your house.
- Clear the areas around emergency exits to ensure customers can exit safely in an emergency.
Take Precautions When Using Alternative Home Heating Methods
With the anticipation of colder temperatures and the possibility of being housebound for several days, the use of home heating appliances will increase as homeowners look for alternative and economical ways to keep warm. With an increase in the use of home heating appliances there’s an increase in the risk of home heating fires — the second leading cause of residential fires and fire-related deaths.
Fires that originate from these appliances are referred to as “confined” fires and account for 87% of residential heating fires. For example, wood stoves, the most popular category of wood-burning heaters, causes over 4,000 residential fires each year. For information on how to use these sources of heat safely, check out the Alternative Heating Safety episode of The Buzz at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEDyiUY97Io.
Weathering the Storm
If you have neighbors who are home-bound or have mobility issues, or even if they just live alone, you may want to check in with them to make sure that they are OK. Being trapped in a snowstorm can be very frustrating for all of us, but it can especially difficult for those of us who face loneliness as well.
Finally, make sure that your outdoor pets have plenty of food, fresh water and an opportunity to stay warm. You may want to bring those pets in for the night if possible because temperatures will drop very low and this is anticipated to be a very wet, heavy snow.
Attached you will find information including winter safety, preparedness tips and emergency contact information that I hope will help you as you make preparations.
Hopefully, everything will be back to normal before we know it. In the meantime…PLEASE BE CAREFUL!
Martin E Nohe
Coles District Supervisor
County Mailstop EA707