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March snowstorm stuns Middlesex

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Gale force winds of over 32 miles per hour pulled a sailboat from its mooring on Urbanna Creek and blew it into the Beryl R. Newman Bridge Sunday night. Above, boat owner Charlie Bass (right) of Urbanna tries to figure how to free his beached boat. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Larry S. Chowning

March roared in like a lion Sunday night and Monday morning as a major winter storm came up the East Coast and dumped 4 to 6 inches of snow on top of ice in most areas of Middlesex.

The storm was accompanied by high winds and frigid temperatures. On Monday night the thermometer hit 11 degrees. County and state offices were closed, events postponed, and school was cancelled for two days.

The snow caused the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors to reschedule their regular monthly day meeting from Tuesday to today, March 5, at 9 a.m. County and school board offices were closed on Monday and Tuesday for all non-essential personnel.

This is the first major snowstorm to hit Middlesex since January 2004 when 4 inches of snow fell here.

The March icing caught many by surprise. “We don’t see many storms like this in March. It was a surprise,” said Middlesex County executive secretary Betty Muncy.

The storm left over 600 residences in Middlesex and 2,200 in the Dominion Virginia Power Gloucester area without electricity, said Muncy. On Tuesday morning, there were still 43 customers in Middlesex without power, she said.

School superintendent Rusty Fairheart reported there is one snow make-up day built into the school calendar, but the other cancelled school day will have to be made up. The school board makes the final decision on how the day will be made up, he noted.

Virginia Department of Transportation personnel worked 12-hour shifts around the clock in an effort to clear the roads. Crews applied salt and sand abrasives to improve traction and will continue until the roads are clear.

The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office reported very few accidents. “People must have stayed off the roads during the storm because there were only three calls for help concerning automobiles in ditches,” said a county dispatcher. 

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A bluebird rests on a highway sign at Hartfield as the snowstorm sputters to a stop Monday afternoon. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

Police are cautioning drivers that more accidents usually occur two or three days after a snowstorm than during a storm because of “black ice.” Black ice occurs when a thin layer of water freezes overnight on roads and makes them slippery. Black ice is difficult to see and catches many motorists by surprise.

During the recent storm, high winds knocked down several trees. A cedar tree fell near the road in front of Deltaville Market, and a homeowner in Chick Cove Subdivision at Hardyville reported a fallen tree in his yard.

The Middle Peninsula Regional Security Center provided inmates to help shovel snow off walks around the new courthouse and other county-owned buildings.

Middlesex County administrator Charles Culley, who also is the county coordinator of emergency services, and other county employees used tractors to clear county parking lots.

Robert Crump, chairman of the county board of supervisors and the county director of emergency services, also helped with the dig-out, said Muncy.

Weather reports are predicting warm spring days by the end of the week, which will probably take the snow and ice away. The forecast is for temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s by Saturday and Sunday.
Another sign that spring is around the corner—Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday, March 8, at 2 a.m.

posted 03.04.2009

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