It was white snow and red brake lights that greeted motorists on their Friday evening commute, and icy conditions affected drivers Saturday morning as well.
About 1 to 3 inches of snow fell in the region Friday, with Western Tidewater seeing the most and South Hampton Roads getting about an inch, according to the National Weather Service.
The snow kept police and emergency responders busy. Newport News reported 76 weather-related crashes, including six with non-life-threatening injuries. Virginia Beach police Saturday morning said they were working 10 to 15 accidents “at any given moment throughout the city.” About 160 vehicles were in accidents or disabled in Suffolk between 3 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday, according to officials.
The snowfall ended before midnight, but temperatures remained below freezing overnight, making driving hazardous.
Temperatures throughout the area were expected to drop as low as the mid to low 20s Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.
Crews with the Virginia Department of Transportation worked through Saturday to re-treat the roads, using a salt/sand mixture to help prevent snow and ice that melted during the day from refreezing.
VDOT will continue to watch for refreezing, particularly on problem areas such as bridges, overpasses and ramps, although a majority of interstates and roadways have been cleared, said VDOT spokesman Kristopher Purzycki. Drivers were reminded to exercise caution while traveling.
No major traffic incidents were reported Saturday, Purzycki said.
Earlier Saturday morning, VDOT asked drivers to delay travel until temperatures rose. Chesapeake asked motorists to keep at least four car lengths between their vehicles and spreader trucks or plows.
After midnight, the Parks and Recreation Department was scheduled to have salt spreaders applying a sand/salt mixture to the main portions of parking lots at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Creeds Senior Resources Center, Virginia Animal Care and Adoption Center, all group homes with parking lots, libraries and community recreation centers.
After 7 a.m. Saturday, teams were scheduled to run snow routes with ice melt and push spreaders at front entrances and sidewalks.
The worst of the storm struck Friday just as thousands of workers were trying to get home. Crashes and disabled vehicles exacerbated commuters’ slow slog. By 10 p.m., Virginia State Police had been called to 191 highway crashes in the Hampton Roads area. Statewide, 651 were reported.
In Suffolk, 25 crashes were reported by city officials in a one-hour period. Late Friday, the city had to briefly close the U.S. 58 exit ramps eastbound at Pruden Boulevard, U.S. 58 westbound from downtown Suffolk and the ramps on and off U.S. 58 at Godwin Boulevard because of ice.
Schools throughout Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina dismissed classes early on Friday, and several cities announced delayed openings at public buildings and events today. Chesapeake closed its libraries and community centers for today.
SATs scheduled for today were canceled in school districts including Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach. The college aptitude tests in Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Dare County were rescheduled for Feb. 16.
The good news is that the end of the bitter cold is in sight. Highs Monday are expected to reach 50 degrees. By Tuesday, the temperatures should be in the low 60s.
Sunday, it should be sunny, with highs in the upper 30s.
Pilot writers Cindy Clayton and Patrick Wilson contributed to this report.
Lauren King, 757-446-2309, email@example.com