The area’s first major winter weather event arrived early on Friday, ahead of the initial forecast of 11 a.m. By 8:30 a.m., snow and sleet was falling throughout the county. Area schools closed at 9:30 a.m. and weather-related power outages were reported throughout the Dobson area.
The power outage hit Dobson shortly after the first flakes began to fall, according to John Shelton, Emergency Services director for Surry County. Shelton said that supplemental equipment was sent to alleviate the situation for affected customers, which included 1,600 customers across the Dobson area, as well as Wayne Farms, the Surry County Judicial Center, and the Sheriff’s Department. Jason Walls, a spokesman for Duke Energy, reported that the outage was “influenced by weather,” and crews responded as quickly as possible.
The Sheriff’s Department in Dobson closed the front office for walk-in business in response to the power outage. According to Sheriff Graham Atkinson, the power outage caused problems due to the backup emergency generators not working properly. Inmates were fed lunch despite the outage and heat was working in most of the judicial facility and the jail. “Our most urgent problem right now is the emergency generators not functioning properly,” says Sheriff Atkinson. “Emergency generators are on the way, but if we cannot get them working properly, plans may be made to move the inmates to another facility, which is our worst-case scenario.”
Public Information Officer for the Surry County Schools, Sonia Dickerson, said she received a call at 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, announcing the closing time as 10:30 a.m. “Once we got to school, not long after that, we had snowflakes and decided to close earlier. The kids who drive were told to begin to prepare to go home even before the buses picked the kids up.” By 10:15 a.m., according to Dickerson, it was sleeting heavily in Dobson and road conditions were becoming hazardous. Despite the early release, Friday counted as a full day for Surry County Schools.
Dr. Gregory Little, superintendent for Mount Airy City Schools, said an incorrect forecast predicting the weather to arrive later in the day caused the initial decision to close at 11 a.m., but after the weather began to push in around 8:30 a.m. the decision was made to release all schools at 9:30 a.m. As with Surry County Schools, students who drive were released first. “Safety is our number one priority. Dr. Sandy George, principal of Mount Airy High School, does a really good job communicating with the students who drive about the importance of safety. We want those students to drive home with the best possible road conditions. We appreciate the parents and community for their flexibility and ability to react quickly to the winter weather.” According to Little, Friday counted as a full day and will not be made up. “If the buses roll, the day counts.”
The National Weather Service in Blackburg, Va., reported a mix of snow and sleet for Surry County, with a total of about 2 inc inches accumulating on Friday. Surry County was under a winter weather advisory in effect until 9 p.m. on Friday. According to Nick Fillo, forecaster with the National Weather Service, the major issue was a pocket of warm air in the atmosphere, causing snow melt through the late afternoon, which was expected to cause problems on the roads during the evening and into Friday night as that melted snow refroze.
With an expected high today in the 40s, all remaining precipitation is expected to melt by mid-afternoon. The next chance for precipitation arrives on Sunday night, although temperatures should be high enough to prevent freezing.