By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Heavy rain arrived late Thursday morning and local temperatures started dropping by noon. The rain changed to sleet and soon became snow as the complex system that the National Weather Service predicted delivered snow at a rate of 2 inches per hour. The hazardous conditions delivered by the wintry mix provided a real challenge for drivers and law enforcement officers.
“It’s not too hard to get around in the snow,” Major Darrell Bailey. “The problem is that with all of these wrecks, you can’t get anywhere.”
Peter Corrigan, a meteorologist/hydrologist with the Blacksburg, Va., office of the National Weather Service said that in spite of the complex nature of the winter storm system, it was “acting to script” through the day.
“Our radar is down right now so we’re having to track the system by piecing it together from other radar images from offices surrounding us,” Corrigan said. He said that by mid-afternoon, he had heard a report of a snowfall total of 4 inches in Bluefield during the first two hours of the event.
“It’s a fast-moving system that will dump a lot of snow in the area, and be out of there quickly,” Corrigan said. He predicted that the snow would move out of the region by about 10 p.m., Thursday night.
“It has been a unique and interesting system,” Corrigan said. He said that the lack of local radar has reduced the chance to track the individual of bands as the system passed through the mountains, but he said that the storm has acted as predicted. “This one won’t last too much longer,” he said.
Dr. Deborah Akers, superintendent of Mercer County Schools said that she did not hesitate about canceling school although the storm brought only rain through the morning.
“The information we had early (Thursday) morning was that our area was under a winter storm warning,” Akers said. “A warning is the third level of possibility with an advisory being the first, followed by a watch and then the warning. Since it looked like the storm going to get hit, I didn’t hesitate.”
Akers said that the early period of rain was somewhat misleading. “In the morning I thought it could just be a rain event, but I think the Weather Service has a pretty good ability to predict a major snow storm.”
Akers wasn’t that fortunate on Dec. 18, 2009 when a fast-moving snow storm blew into Mercer County at about 12 noon, and made the roads almost impassible before the buses could get to the schools and pick up students.
“We were under a winter storm advisory that day, and the storm wasn’t supposed to get here until late that evening,” Akers said. “The safety of our students, faculty and staff members is a priority.”
The National Weather Service is calling for clear skies and cooler temperatures today through Saturday with a chance of snow on Monday night with frigid temperatures dipping as low as 12 degrees.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org