Weather and emergency services are taking a “we’ll see” approach to today’s impending winter storm, making preparations for the worst but planning for the best.
Local school systems are closing early in preparation for the expected winter weather. School officials said Mount Airy schools will be closing at 1:30 p.m. while Surry County schools are closing earlier, at 1 p.m.
According to Mike Sporer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va., the amount of winter weather Surry County receives is largely dependent on what time today the temperature drops.
“You’re a little further south than some of the locations we cover, so the change-over to winter weather will be a little bit later in the afternoon,” he said.
But Sporer noted that when the change comes it’s going to hit hard and fast.
“It’s not going to be one of those gradual things,” he said. “It’s pretty much going to be a bang, bang proposition.”
He said it’s up in the air what time the rain will change to snow or freezing rain, but predicted it will be “between three and four in the afternoon.”
“We’re looking at a bit of a wild card on how it’s going to accumulate in your area because it’s been a little warmer and wetter than some other areas, but we’re looking for roadways to cool down pretty quickly as the sun goes down and it’ll start sticking at that point,” Sporer said.
Weather officials say the Surry County area could be looking at four inches of total snowfall, but a lot of that could melt as it hits the warmer, wetter ground.
“Since you’re seeing it hit later, you’re going to be looking at a bit more liquid precipitation at the onset,” he said.
Most of the county’s winter weather will occur between late afternoon and midnight, Sporer added.
County officials say they’re about as prepared as they can get, and are also watching the skies.
According to John Shelton, emergency services director, the county is prepared for the worst.
“We’ve been coordinating with some state offices, and have opened up our major storm and disaster management software that interfaces with the state’s system,” he said.
Shelton said county crews have been traveling the area looking over power generators, communication tower sites and other communications equipment.
“We’re also getting our vehicles ready for snow travel, putting on snow tires and getting them ready to roll,” he said. “If we get more than two inches of snow we’re going to be looking at the personnel we may have to call in to increase our staff if we get over-burdened.”
County emergency crews are also working with local fire and rescue departments to ensure they’re prepared for the worst.
According to the state department of transportation’s Surry County Maintenance Engineer Mark Williams, equipment is ready to begin clearing the roads.
“Right now we’re just watching the weather and have been mounting all our snow plows and spreaders,” he said. “We’re preparing for a long night and are ready to do whatever, for as long as it takes.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.