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New River Valleys sees the first, and possibly only, snowy day

After weeks of surprisingly spring-like weather, the New River Valley has finally faced its first snowstorm. With snow accumulations ranging from five to, almost, ten inches, residents all over the region experienced a snowy end to their weekend.

Word spread throughout last week that the weekend would bring snow to the NRV but considering that the temperature high on Saturday was in the 60s, it was hard to believe. Radford University senior Christine LaBelle made a trip back home to Sterling, Va. on Friday with no worries. She left her northern Virginia home around 2 p.m. not expecting to encounter terrible conditions along I-81 S but unfortunately, she was wrong.

“The roads were terrible,” said LaBelle. “I saw cars flipped over, in ditches, and a car completely turned backwards. In the last part of my drive a tractor trailer was flipped on the side and traffic was stopped for over 45 minutes.”

Car completely flipped over after sliding down I-81 S. Photo courtesy of Christine LaBelle.

Accidents were among the reasons for the large increase in service calls, according the Virginia State Police. Between 10 a.m. on Sunday and midnight Monday, the Virginia State police received around 600 calls. While the snow had begun mid-morning, it didn’t begin to accumulate on the roads until around 5 p.m. VDOT had placed multiple snow removal crews along I-81 S on Sunday morning, in order to keep traffic flowing as calmly as possible. As temperatures dropped, conditions worsened.

While interstates were receiving as much attention as possible, local roads also faced treacherous conditions. Pepper’s Ferry Road was closed in the afternoon due to an accident, but only for a short time. VDOT officials advised everyone to stay off the roads to avoid further accidents. No fatalities due to the snow have been reported but many people experienced long hours on the road.

LaBelle said, “I was lucky enough to get back to Radford safely, but after a slow eight hours.”

Walkways on RU's campus were somewhat cleared Sunday night as the snow still fell. Photo Credit: Natalie Del Castillo

Universities in the area were teetering on the decision to close campus on Monday. Many professors sent out emails Sunday evening deciding to cancel classes due to their inability to make it to campus. Radford University released an alert via email, phone and text to students around 5:30 a.m. today that the campus would open on a delayed schedule at 11 a.m. Virginia Tech decided against the delay/closing. Virginia Tech senior William Keel was not personally affected but still saw the dangers in driving today.

“My concern is with the students and faculty commuting from more rural areas around our universities,” said Keel. “It’s always better safe than sorry and it may have been a better choice to have a delay or closing, especially considering the relatively mild winter we’ve experienced until now.”

Along with terrible road conditions, the NRV was affected with a huge amount of power outages. Appalachian Power reported midday Monday that they had approximately 55,602 customers in Virginia and West Virginia without electric service. According to The Roanoke Times, the company said it was seeing additional power outages on Monday, due to the snow melting.

While there were many negative outcomes because of the snow, students looked at the bright side of things and enjoyed what might have been the only snowy day in the NRV. Sophomore Ashlyn Aronhalt was unable to make it to work in Christiansburg so she took the day to take her dog, Navaeh, out to enjoy the snow.

Aronhalt took her dog on a long walk throughout campus after she got the day off. Photo Credit: Natalie Del Castillo

“I never get the chance to just have a full day off so this snow was definitely a blessing in disguise for me,” said Aronhalt.

While there was a hefty amount of snowfall, the likelihood that it will last past Wednesday is doubtful. Unusually warm weather is in our future, once again. The forecast calls for the temperature highs to rise at least 7 degrees each day. The winter advisory will hold until tomorrow morning due to the possible risk that the roads may refreeze overnight.

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