Storm Ices Roads, Keeps Emergency, Road Crews Busy
HARRISONBURG — A wintry mix of snow and freezing rain gave the central Valley an icy coating today, turning area roads into a treacherous gauntlet of ice and slush and keeping most holiday shoppers inside.
Page, Rockingham and Shenandoah county schools didn’t waste any time in announcing that their schools would be closed on Monday, making the call by early evening. Usually, those decisions are made much later at night or early in the morning. By 6:40 tonight, Harrisonburg had not yet announced whether city schools would be closed or delayed.
The winter weather resulted in several closings today, as well, including church services and Sunday schools, and the postponement of the Harrisonburg Downtown Holiday Tour. At least one store, the T.J. Maxx on East Market Street, shuttered its doors in the early afternoon because of the road conditions.
Police, fire and rescue squads have responded to several wrecks around the region today, mostly minor fender benders and similar mishaps, according to a release from the Virginia Department of Transportation. A southbound car went off the road and down an embankment in the median on Interstate 81 near Weyers Cave this afternoon. And a tractor-trailer slid off the road near Bridgewater, ending up facing south on the northbound shoulder. It’s not clear if anyone was injured in those wrecks.
While the precipitation stopped late this afternoon, the forecast calls for more freezing rain later tonight amid temperatures in the mid-20s. The precipitation is expected to continue throughout the night — at about 6:20 tonight, satellite images showed a large band of rain and freezing rain moving up toward the Shenandoah Valley from eastern Tennessee — before tapering off in the morning or early afternoon, when temperatures will slowly rise into the low 40s.
Local police and VDOT are advising area residents to stay home tonight if possible, both to stay safe and to keep the roads clear for emergency crews, snow plows and salt and sanding trucks.
As of 6 p.m., I-81 was in moderate condition, according to VDOT, which means that most of the roadway is covered in snow or ice and the use of snow tires is advised. VDOT is responsible for plowing and treating county roads and the interstate.
The city of Harrisonburg reported around 2:30 p.m. today that most secondary roads, such as those that run through residential neighborhoods, were also in moderate condition. Early this evening, a spokeswoman for the city said primary roads — major roadways such as Port Republic Road, Main and East and West Market streets — in Harrisonburg were in minor condition, meaning the roadways were mostly clear, but had patches of snow and slush and could still be hazardous.
At 6 p.m., however, VDOT said most primary roads in the county were in moderate condition. VDOT and city officials say they will continue to monitor and treat the roadways throughout the night as needed.
Motorists who must go out should, of course, drive cautiously and more slowly than usual. Hitting even a small patch of ice can put vehicles into a spin and send them off the road or into the path of other vehicles or pedestrians.
The Daily News-Record will have a complete report on today’s storm in Monday’s print and web editions.