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Winter's first snowfall wreaks road havoc

The first snowfall of the winter season and the ‘20s fell across Central Virginia on Tuesday, putting three inches of snow on the ground and dozens of vehicles into ditches, trees and each other.

And Virginia Department of Transportation officials are warning motorists that temperatures dropping below freezing Tuesday night could cause icy roads Wednesday morning.

Those warnings have caused some area divisions to call off school for Wednesday as well — Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Madison counties have announced closures.

The snow began falling in earnest around 11 a.m. Tuesday and continued until about 3 p.m., leading to dozens of crashes all over the region that shut down streets and saw drivers abandoning vehicles that they couldn’t get to go up hill.

No estimates of the number of car crashes were available, but at one point in the snowfall traffic was stopped on U.S. 250 near Pantops, U.S. 250 near Ivy Road, U.S. 29 south of North Garden and Scottsville Road south of Interstate 64.

“We are responding to multiple vehicle crashes all over the county,” Albemarle County Police Chief Ron Lantz wrote on social media around 1 p.m. Tuesday. “Please slow down, make sure headlights are on. If you do not have to travel, please stay home.”

In Charlottesville, Melbourne Road and Park Street were blocked at one point, as were McIntire Road and Avon Street near the Albemarle County line, due to snow-slicked roads, crashes and stranded vehicles.

“The intensity of the storm, which dropped several inches of snow in a very short period of time, combined with significant daytime traffic, made it extremely difficult for Public Works crews to respond and resupply as needed,” said Brian Wheeler, Charlottesville spokesman.

National Weather Service meteorologists said preliminary measurements showed about three inches of snow falling in Albemarle County with more than that in the higher elevations. An estimated 2.5 inches fell in Charlottesville.

“It came through pretty quick and the good news is that moved out pretty quick,” said Michael Souza, with the weather service. “We’re looking at dry weather for the next few days with highs in the 40s, so all that fell will soon be gone.”

Souza said low temperatures Tuesday night would give way to sunny skies and windy Wednesday with gusts up to 35 mph.

The low temperatures have VDOT officials concerned.

“Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing overnight Tuesday and any moisture left on the road has the potential to refreeze into black ice,” said Will Merritt, VDOT spokesman. “Anyone who must travel overnight or early Wednesday is encouraged to use caution and to drive for the conditions by reducing speed and increasing following distance.”

Wheeler said Charlottesville public works employees would work to keep roads as safe as possible.

“Crews will be working throughout the night to monitor and treat as necessary in the event conditions worsen due to refreeze,” he said.


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