An unexpected snowstorm has left as much as 3 inches of snow across Surry County and 5-7 inches in the Galax/Hillsville areas of Virginia.
John Shelton, emergency services director for Surry County, said his crews had already responded to 47 accidents by 5 p.m. Friday.
Luckily, most of the vehicles were traveling at a lower-than-normal rate of speed, he pointed out. Instead of serious injuries and fatalities, what parademics are finding are cuts, bruises and a few broken arms.
Most of the accidents came on the west half of the county where snowfall was a little worse, said Shelton. Several of the calls came in for Interstate 77.
Even if the highway travelers slow down to 45 to 55 miles per hour, hitting a patch of slush can throw a vehicle out of control, he noted.
From those first 47 accidents, Shelton said 11 crews reported personal injury, but only three cases were serious enough to need transporting to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
As far as backing up traffic, he said that the Highway Patrol was working to ensure at least one lane of traffic was open on the interstate at each accident site.
The storm also is affecting homes. Snow accumulation can cause tree limbs to fall on power lines and interrupt service. Shelton said about 800 homes were without power as of 5 p.m.
Another, smaller system passing through overnight could drop another three-quarters of an inch across the area, said Mike Sporer, a forecaster at the National Weather Service, Blacksburg, Virginia.
Some weather forecasts were only calling for an inch of snow, but now it looks like Surry County could finish with 4 inches or more. How did the forecasts miss this?
All week long, the National Weather Service knew there was a storm coming, Sporer explained, but the issue was predicting where two system fronts would meet. One system had been sitting down to the southeast gathering moisture from the coast, and it met with a cold front coming from the other direction.
The Western Piedmont looked to be sitting right on the line between the wet side and dry side of where the merged system would pass, Sporer said.
With temperatures on Sunday reaching as high as 40 and a bright sky providing plenty of warm sunlight, Surry County could see lots of melting that day. However, the overnight low will drop to about 22 degrees, creating the chance of refreezing on wet spots.
Monday should warm up to 48 degrees and help get rid of the snow for good.
Another cold front could reach the area by Tuesday night, dropping temperatures into the teens. By the following week, the highs could be back in the 50s.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.