NORFOLK, Virginia — Virginia was pelted Monday with a wintry mix of snow and sleet from the mountains to the coast that prompted school closings, flight cancellations and government agency closures.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency so state agencies could prepare to assist local governments in responding to the storm, which was expected to cover most of the state. More than 70 Virginia National Guard soldiers were staged at readiness centers along the northern Interstate 81 corridor to respond if needed.
The National Weather Service says snow accumulations could range from 2 inches to 4 inches in the southern parts of the state and Hampton Roads to between 8 inches and 10 inches in northern Virginia. Airports in Roanoke, Richmond, Newport News and Norfolk reported numerous cancellations and delays.
In central Virginia, the 18-mile morning commute from Glen Allen to Carmel Church turned into an all-morning ordeal for Bill Painter, store director for Flying J Travel Plaza along Interstate 95 between Richmond and Fredericksburg.
Painter, a native of Massachusetts, said he left his home at 9 a.m. Monday but didn't make it to work until 12:45 p.m.
"It was pretty rough, everyone was going real slow and it was real slushy," Painter said, recounting several vehicles running off the road, including a truck carrying live hogs.
"I've driven in snowy conditions my entire life and I've never been scared until I'd driven in Virginia."
The nearly 275 trucks parked outside the truck stop wasn't out of the ordinary, but Painter expected those numbers to rise as temperatures we forecast to fall to the low teens by sundown.
Virginia State Police troopers responded to more than 300 traffic crashes across the state between 12:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Monday, with about half occurring in the Richmond area. Local authorities were also responding to accidents as road conditions worsened throughout the day.
In southeast Virginia, the Navy told thousands of sailors and civilians at its installations to go home early before the storm struck. Fort Eustis in Newport News and Langley Air Force Base in Hampton were only open to mission-essential personnel. Many local government offices, colleges and school systems were also closing early, as were many businesses and areas popular with tourists, such as Colonial Williamsburg.
The early closures resulted in heavily congested roadways in some parts of Hampton Roads as people went home early, with backups extending for several miles along interstates in the region. Snow and icy conditions contributed to much of the congestion, as well as traffic accidents.
On the Eastern Shore of Virginia, NASA's Wallops Flight Facility was also closed for the day. As much as six inches of snow was forecast to fall on northern portions of the Eastern Shore.
About 600 customers were without power by mid-afternoon Monday, according to Dominion Virginia Power. About 350 of those were in Alleghany County near West Virginia, although power outages also were reported around Richmond, northern Virginia and in Hampton Roads.
The Virginia Department of Transportation said rain Sunday and overnight prevented crews from pretreating roads. VDOT said it would plow interstates and primary roads before moving onto more heavily traveled secondary roads. VDOT said its goal is to make at least one pass on all roads within 48 hours after the storm ends.
Near Fredericksburg, VDOT said its crews were repeatedly plowing the travel lanes on Interstate 95, where there were isolated areas of snow and slush, with snow-covered shoulders. Subdivision streets and secondary roads that carry light traffic were completely covered in snow, according to VDOT.
The department is advising motorists throughout the state to avoid travel if possible.
Associated Press Writer Michael Felberbaum contributed to this report from Richmond.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis