Virginians awakening to snow, sleet, rain

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Local,Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — More than a foot of snow in southern and northern Virginia sandwiched the slushy center of the state Thursday, with more rain, snow and sleet threatening to make roads even more treacherous.

Virginia State Police reported one weather-related road death and said troopers responded to more than 1,000 crashes and disabled vehicles statewide over a 12-hour span.

Schools and colleges were canceled statewide and many government offices were either closed or opening late. Richmond International Airport posted a long list of canceled flights.

Police, snow-clearing crews and the auto club advised Virginians to stay off the roads so plows could scrape off snow, ice and slush coating many surfaces, especially in western Virginia, the Lynchburg region and northern Virginia. The heaviest snowfall occurred in those areas.

While some portions of the state, such as coastal region, escaped the brunt of the storm, the National Weather Service said another band of snow could add several more inches in southern and northern Virginia and rain and sleet could add a slick crust.

Snow depths ranged from 14 inches in Blacksburg and Salem to several inches in the Richmond area. A foot of snow also fell in some parts of northern and northwest Virginia as the storm moved north, bringing more snow to the D.C. region.

"We're not done with this by any means," Blacksburg meteorologist Robert Beasley said. "It's going to be really nasty."

Despite heavy, wet snow in some sections of the state, the state's two largest power companies reported scant power failures. Dominion Virginia Power said less than 5,000 of its 2.4 million customers were in the dark, while Appalachian Power Co. reported fewer than 500 outages in far southwest Virginia. It has 1 million customers in Virginia and two other states.

The state's lone road fatal occurred in Halifax County on Wednesday as the storm swept into Southside Virginia. State police investigators said the 55-year-old male victim was killed on snow-slick Route 501 when his car was hit head-on by another vehicle. His wife was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Through early Thursday, state police emergency dispatch centers fielded 2,249 calls for service. Troopers responded to 841 traffic crashes and assisted 515 disabled vehicles.

The majority of the crashes involved vehicle damage and no injuries.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said 2,500 workers and more than 12,000 plows and other snow-fighting equipment were clearing snow-covered interstates and primary roads, even as snow continued to fall in the northern part of the state.

VDOT said snow and ice covered major portions of road surfaces in the Shenandoah Valley, the Lynchburg region and central and northern Virginia. Rain in the Richmond area has helped break down snow on major roads.

Besides VDOT workers, the state has called in contractors to treat and plow road surfaces.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency well ahead of the storm, making hundreds of National Guard troops available for emergency situations.

The declaration also triggered the state's anti-gouging law, which is aimed at opportunistic merchants and contractors who jack up prices for products or services when customers are in a pinch.

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Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap .

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