It may not be the 18 inches some places in the area got two years ago, but a major winter weather event is expected to bring eight to 12 inches of snow to the tri-county area Friday and Saturday.
The weather event was expected to begin in the overnight wee morning hours Friday, according to Chris Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia, which issued a winter storm warning for the area from midnight Friday until 6 a.m. Sunday.
“We are still looking at it starting after midnight, probably between 1 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it’s going to last most of [Friday] into the early part of Saturday,” said Fisher Thursday afternoon.
“Initially it will be some ice for maybe the first hour or so before switching to snow. It will be mostly snow [Friday] night and then there will be a period [Friday] night it will be switching to freezing rain, and then back to snow Saturday,” he said. “It’s going to go back and forth.
“We are still looking at eight to 12 inches of snow and up to a tenth of an inch of ice. Any ice on top of snow is not a good thing,” said Fisher.
With temperatures barely getting above freezing on Saturday, he said there will not be much melting after it ends Saturday, but he does expect it to be in the 40s Sunday through Tuesday which will help with a slow melting.
“We don’t want it to be too warm, because if it melts too quickly you can have flooding issues,” said Fisher. “You want a slow melt, and the 40s are good for that.”
Looking into next week, Fisher said there is a potential for another minor storm to pass through the area in the middle of next week, but he said it is too early to tell if it will be a rain or snow event. “It looks to be a minor event with not much impact.”
The quick-moving front which brought a couple hours of snow Wednesday afternoon amounting to less than a half inch of snow accumulation caused school officials to release students early Wednesday, and due to the cold temperatures and potential for slick roads, school was canceled for Thursday with an optional teacher workday.
As of 1 p.m. Thursday, no decision on school cancellations for Elkin City Schools had been made for Friday, but John Altemueller, director of maintenance, said, “The governor already declared a state of emergency so I think it’s obvious we will likely be closed tomorrow.”
He said a final decision would be made and announced later Thursday afternoon after he and Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe have a chance to talk it over. “We’re not going to officially make that call until I talk to him,” said Altemueller.
Preparations for the storm were well under way Wednesday by local emergency services as well.
John Shelton, director of emergency services for Surry County, said his department had requested two Humvees and the National Guard to come in on Friday if necessary, assistance from the Forestry Service and for permission to use wildlife agents as law enforcement if needed.
“Those are the state resources we’ve asked for,” Shelton said, adding he had been in communication with all local law enforcement and public safety agencies, the Department of Transportation and Duke Energy regarding the potential significance of the storm.
Social services and the health department have been contacted about opening shelters if needed.
“We’ve covered all our bases today,” Shelton said. “Everybody is on board and I think we’re as ready as we can be.”
Shelton encouraged people to avoid traveling if possible on Friday and Saturday.
“We feel like the roads are probably going to be terrible if we get what they’re saying is possible,” he said. “Most travel should take place before Friday morning. Once it gets started, you need to stay home.”
Shelton provided a few storm preparation tips:
• When traveling, communicate with someone about what time you’re leaving and what time you should arrive.
• Keep blankets, snacks and water in your car.
• Make sure a supply of any necessary medications are filled and with you wherever you go.
• Take caution when heating your home with devices like a kerosene heater that the area is well ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and wood fire chimneys are inspected and cleaned to prevent fires.
• As the storm will likely bring ice, be careful when stepping outside the house.
Wear appropriate shoes, Shelton warned, adding: “Absolutely look before you step.”
The American Red Cross also offered tips for winter storm preparation Thursday including:
• Food and water — have at least a three-day supply; one gallon of water per person per day is recommended.
• Flashlights with batteries.
• Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries.
• First aid kit as well as medications (seven-day supply) and medical items such as hearing aids with batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane.
• Fully charge cell phones and laptops prior to the storm.
• Warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and extra blankets and warm clothing for all household members.
• Heat one’s home safely, keeping anything which can burn three feet away from a fireplace, wood stove or space heater.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.
Terri Flagg, staff reported at The Mount Airy News, contributed to this article.