Snow melted: But school's out... forever?
Unlike the late-December 'snowpocalypse' (not to be confused with this weekend's predicted 'snowmageddon') when fast and heavy snow scattered dozens of cars in a botched commute, a Hook reporter journeying from Ivy to Afton and then downtown via varying routes on Saturday, January 23, saw at least a dozen VDOT plows plowing–- and zero stranded vehicles. And although no asphalt was showing, traffic moved smoothly at speeds ranging from 35 to 45mph, and the next day black asphalt popped out almost as fast as the sun overhead.
Why didn't this happen last time?
For starters, the depth was less: 10.5 inches this time versus 20.5 inches, as measured at UVA's McCormick Observatory.
The other big thing was timing, says Lou Hatter, the VDOT spokesperson, pointing out that the December storm started piling up amid afternoon rush hour and creating a "bonding" experience that wasn't positive.
"The heavy volume of traffic during that afternoon commute," says Hatter, "coupled with additional volume due to the upcoming holiday, made it difficult for our trucks to get the initial application of sand and salt onto all the roads before the snow accumulated and got packed onto and bonded to the road surface."
In both storms, Hatter says VDOT crews applied an anti-icing brine mixture–- visible recently as stripes on Emmet Street. "But once the snow bonds to the road surface," he says, "it becomes much more difficult to remove.
By noon Sunday, January 24, even though the day dawned with single-digit temperatures, all the major thoroughfares were completely or nearly completely black asphalt, including Emmet, Main, JPA, Rio, and Ivy–- not to mention the busy Interstate 64 and the 29/250 Bypass–- as the potent mix of chemical treatment, plowing, solar radiation, and the constant pressure from rubber tires combined to keep the roads open.
What didn't open were Albemarle County schools. Already this year delayed for a false-alarm snow and then closed for flooding, they closed again on Monday, Tuesday, and–- due to another storm– on Wednesday of this 'snowmageddon' week.
"It’s a big county, and we figured we’d err on the side of caution,” County schools spokesperson Maury Brown said after the January 22 non-snow event.
But with snow falling as this issue of the Hook goes to press and as the new weekend 'snowmageddon' approaches, such hasty-in-hindsight closures may just meld into the history books of snow.
–story rewritten for print at 3:08pm Tuesday, February 2
Monday, 7:57am update: Despite the winning job of clearing all the primary roads to 100% black asphalt, all the major school systems are closed today. With the National Weather Service predicting a chance of rain and snow Tuesday afternoon, there seems less impetus to reopen them.
Sunday, 1:58pm update: The Hook editor put up a fresh slideshow from Sunday morning.
Sunday, 12:31pm update: All the major thoroughfares are completely or nearly completely black asphalt including Emmet, Main, JPA, Rio, Ivy–- not to mention I-64 and the 29/250 Bypass as a potent mix of chemical treatment, plowing, solar radiation, and the constant pressure from rubber tires has combined to reopen Charlottesville roads after a 9-inch snowstorm.
Sunday, 7:52am update: It's 4.4Ã?Å¡ F with no wind, rising barometric pressure of 29.73, and–- measured at multiple spots over hard surfaces–- a final snow depth of 9 inches. Don't count on much melt today or on any Albemarle public schools opening tomorrow, though, as the National Weather Service predicts a high in the upper 20s.
11:32pm update: It's 19.5Ã?Å¡ F with a snow depth of 8.75" at the Hook weather station near Ivy, and the radar suggests there's a bit more to come.
7:21pm update: Unlike the 'snowpocalypse' when dozens of cars were scattered like toys due to a botched commute, a Hook reporter journeying today from Ivy to Afton via Routes 250, 240, and I-64, and then downtown via Route 250 saw zero stranded vehicles and at least a dozen VDOT plows plowing. Speeds ranged from 35-45mph though no asphalt was showing. Here's the day's chronicle in a slideshow.
6:33am update: City crews are actually plowing, as the photograph at left (later removed–- sorry) indicates.
With the morning temperature just 19.7 degrees at the Hook's Western Albemarle weather station as the news day begins shortly befor 5:30am, the inch of snow that's fallen has been sticking, as the 5:21am webcam photograph of the Downtown Mall indicates.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service has increased its snowfall forecast for Charlottesville from 4-6" to 6-10".
Stay tuned above here for periodic updates. Original story below:
Original 3:02pm January 27 headline:
"Another snow: Flakes expected to begin falling Friday night"
Just when most of the last brownish-white piles from the pre-Christmas "snowpocalypse" have disappeared, a new snow storm is rearing its head. This time, however, according to the National Weather Service, the heaviest band of snowfall won't be quite as widespread; but there are some double-digit depth estimates out there.
According to a Service map, the heaviest band of snow is currently expected in an east-west swath roughly tracking the Virginia-North Carolina border. That's not to say that Charlottesville won't get snow. It will. But how much is still unknown at this time.
"A winter storm with a potential for significant snowfall." says the Service. "There is some uncertainty regarding the track and timing of this storm, so please monitor the latest forecasts."
Albemarle County spokesperson Lee Catlin is urging everyone to stock up on their necessities now, presumably because of the mammoth traffic jams that accompanied the start and end of the last storm which caught many sectors of the populace–- as well as many road-clearing crews–- less than fully able to deal with the nearly two feet of snow.
6:58am Thursday update: Though the storm's biggest punch remains on track to fall south of here, the Service just reiterated its "hazardous weather outlook."
11:59am Thursday update: The track appears to have shifted just a bit to the south.
5:22pm Thursday update: The NWS now has our area on "Winter Storm Watch" with a forecast of "five or more inches." This time, though, instead of arriving at Friday's rush hour, the snow gods have graciously agreed to launch around midnight.
5:29pm Thursday update: And the nifty over-4-inch map has been revised in our direction!
6:17am Friday update: Latest estimate is 4-6" from the NWS office in northern Virginia, but the NWS station in Blackburg–- although we're just outside its map range–- appears to have us in a band expected to receive 8-10".
8:58am Friday update: Most schools closed in Tennessee as storm creeps eastward.
2:44pm Friday update: "I'm seeing basically the same thing you're seeing out your window," says Blacksburg-based National Weather Service Meteorologist Dennis Sleighter. "High cloud cover moving into the area that's in advance of the new system." Sleighter says he hasn't gotten any reports of major snowfall arriving in Virginia yet, but his weather station is predicting over a foot for certain areas along the Virginia-North Carolina border. The latest official estimate for Charlottesville remains just 3-5 inches.
3:06pm Friday update: Latest NWS forecast calls for half an inch tonight, 2-4" Saturday, one more inch Sunday, and then sunny skies Sunday. (What if this isn't Snowpocalype II, after all?)
8:59pm Friday update: It's snowing in Greensboro.
5:01am Saturday update: About half an inch has fallen at the Hook's Ivy-area weather station, where the temperature is 20.3 degrees, and the wind is calm.
Latter headline: It's here: Predicted snowfall jumps to 6-10"
Another headline: "9 inches: Area gets cold but convenient snowfall"
Yet another: Potent mix: Brine, sweat, and sun combine for clear roads