Patchy snow causes mixed school impacts

By Bill Colvard -

“The forecasts weren’t really capturing it ‘til late last night,” said Andrew Loconto, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s office in Blacksburg, Virginia, of Tuesday evening’s scattered — and surprising — snowfall.

“It came all the way from West Virginia,” said Loconto, “and was really localized. Most of the snow was on the Virginia side of the Blue Ridge, and the further east from the Blue Ridge, the less there was. Some of the snow made it over, but, to my knowledge, there was not much in the way of accumulation.”

John Shelton, Surry County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) director, confirmed on Wednesday that his office had seen “nothing major” concerning weather-related highway accidents on Tuesday evening.

“We are focusing our efforts on individuals who don’t have heat sources, and could be at risk in this weather,” he said.

Shelton added that when it is extra cold, he is concerned with the homeless population who may be seeking shelter under bridges or in other exposed locations. EMS works with the Red Cross, Salvation Army and the Department of Social Services to find aid for people whose lives are put at risk by cold weather. As of noon Wednesday, EMS had not found anyone in need of their aid with regards to the excessive cold weather.

Shelton said anyone traveling in the cold should take additional precautions, such as having some form of communication in the vehicle, like a cell phone.

“Let someone know what time you’re leaving, and when you expect to arrive at your location.” Shelton said it’s also important to state which way you’ll be traveling. “If you run off an embankment, there could be no way to know where to look for you.” Shelton suggests traveling with some basic supplies. “A blanket and water, for sure. You need to stay warm until help arrives.”

County and city schools sent mixed signals, with Mount Airy City Schools operating on a two-hour delay, with an option to close, and Surry County Schools operating on a normal schedule. Just up the road in Carroll County, Virginia, school systems were closed after higher elevations were blanketed by snow that covered roadways and made traveling difficult overnight.

“We’ve gotten a few complaints,” Sonia Dickerson, director of communications for Surry County Schools. “Some people were upset. But we had several people out on the roads at 4 a.m. And people were out late checking the roads until 9:30 or 10 p.m. We had people out in all four corners of the county, and there was no ice or snow.”

“This is something we don’t take lightly,” said Dickerson, “deciding what is best for our staff and our students.” Dickerson added that the county will take one day at a time going forward.

“Superintendents in Elkin City, Surry County and Mount Airy City talk and reach an understanding of what each district’s needs are based on their location and situations,” said Carrie Venable, MACS public information officer. “Elkin and Mount Airy are on opposite sides of the county, and Surry County has several areas that are impacted differently by severe weather.”

“It’s starting to turn around now,” said Loconto on Wednesday afternoon. “Mid- to upper-30s, with a southwesterly breeze that makes it feel a little cooler.”

Loconto predicted that on Wednesday night a weak storm system would pass to the north, and Thursday would bring temperatures in the mid- to upper-40s and breezy, and Thursday night going into Friday would be mid- to upper-20s.

“About average for this time of year,” he said. “A little below.”

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

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