Winter storm bears down on Virginia
A winter storm bearing down on Virginia had the potential to bring down trees and power lines from the weight of ice and interrupt travel plans for residents hoping to get holiday preparations done, authorities said.
The National Weather Service issued a storm warning for at least 28 counties in southwestern, central and Southside Virginia from early Sunday through Monday morning.
Accumulations of up to an inch of snow and sleet were likely through Sunday afternoon, followed by up to a half-inch of ice through Monday morning. The weather service said ice could topple trees and power lines, and roads could become slick and hazardous.
Other areas of the state, especially northern sections, could see up to 3 inches of snow before changing to freezing rain on Sunday night and rain on Monday morning.
Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm has the potential to be a "historic ice event."
"This forecast is very concerning to us," Southard said Saturday. "I've worked multiple disasters, but I've never worked an ice storm with a forecast like this. It's just really important for everybody to take extra precautions. We really want people to get where they need to go before the weather gets bad."
Appalachian Power said crews from its West Virginia and Tennessee operations will be mobilized in Roanoke and Wytheville over the weekend and additional crews would be on standby Monday.
Officials urged residents to check batteries and flashlights, have an alternate source of heat ready in case the power goes out and to ensure the safe use of portable heat and power generators.
"We know it is a weekend leading up to the holiday when people have so many things they want to be doing and enjoying. We're really hoping Virginians in particular are paying attention to their local forecast so they know what to expect in their own communities. It does look like it will be different depending where you are in the state."
The town of McKenney in Dinwiddie County canceled a Christmas parade on Sunday due to the impending storm. Plans continued for Saturday night's holiday parade in Chesapeake after officials checked the forecast that called for rain.
Southard compared the forecast to a January 1978 storm that caused massive power outages from ice in the Richmond area and sent roofs collapsing under the weight of up to 30 inches of snow in some mountainous areas of the state.
"I was living in Christiansburg and I well remember that ice storm and the horrific sound of the branches of the trees cracking as they became overloaded with ice and fell," she said. "I had just taken my Super Bowl dinner out of the oven."