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Snowy weather stayed to the south

Late afternoon commuters make their way south on Jefferson Davis Highway near College Avenue as rain falls on the area Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. (Peter Cihelka/The Free Lance-Star)

BY LINDLEY ESTES

Those looking forward to snowmen and snowball fights today are going to be disappointed.

The immediate Fredericksburg area earlier was predicted to get up to 7 inches of snow but by nightfall Thursday the forecast had dropped to less than an inch.

Localities south of Fredericksburg, such as Caroline County, are predicted to get between 3 and 5 inches of snow during the night. Caroline schools are closed today.

The forecast was enough  for localities and schools to cancel numerous evening activities and classes Thursday evening.

The predictions were downgraded because  surface temperatures stayed above freezing longer than expected.

Heather Sheffield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, said the radar Thursday showed Fredericksburg “getting a brush of snow” while areas closer to the mountains and farther south had heavier snow showers.

Sheffield said commuters should not be too worried about road conditions this morning since roads were still warm early Thursday night.

“They might be slick in some areas but if roads are treated, they should be fine,” she said.

Snow was heavier in Southwest Virginia, with some localities receiving as much as a foot of frozen precipitation.

Appalachian Power said the heavy, wet snow contributed to at least 71,000 outages Thursday night in Southwestern Virginia, while Dominion Virginia Power said at least 2,500 customers were without power, according to the Associated Press.

The National Weather Service says a foot of snow is possible in the highest elevations of Southwestern Virginia.

Most area school systems, including Fredericksburg, Stafford, King George, Caroline and Orange, canceled after-school activities Thursday.

Students in Spotsylvania and Culpeper county schools were already scheduled to be off today, but teachers were slated for a workday.

All schools are out on Monday for the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Germanna Community College canceled classes as of 2 p.m. Thursday and allowed staff to leave, spokesman Mike Zitz said.

The University of Mary Washington canceled its evening classes and activities at the Fredericksburg, Stafford and Dahlgren campuses Thursday. UMW also canceled all evening events Thursday.

Other organizations closed early, as well, including the downtown library and Fredericksburg courts.

The Virginia Department of Transportation started preparing early Thursday for the expected snow.

VDOT had nearly 900 pieces of equipment available to remove snow from roads and apply sand, salt and other chemicals in the Fredericksburg district, and there are 35 trucks available to target Interstate 95, according to a press release release.

They advised that drivers should stay alert for slick or icy road conditions, especially on bridges, ramps and overpasses.

Drivers can call 511, visit the 511 website or use the free mobile app to find real-time road conditions in any area of the state.

Here are driving tips from VDOT and AAA:

Keep the car’s windows, mirrors and lights clear of snow and ice.

Leave a few minutes early and start out slowly in the lowest gear recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges.

Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road

Don’t pass a snowplow or spreader unless absolutely necessary—they should be treated like emergency response vehicles.

Dress as if you were going to be stranded. It can get very cold in a car on the side of the road waiting for help. Be sure to have extra blankets and to insist that children who may be traveling with you do the same.

Open the garage door before starting the car to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. It is easy to lose track of time, and carbon monoxide is almost impossible to detect and can be fatal when breathed in a confined area.

Bring your vehicle-clearing supplies, such as your ice scraper, snow shovels and deicer spray, inside. The very-best-prepared motorists will be frustrated to wake up and find all of their supplies frozen inside the car.

Check your antifreeze to ensure it will withstand the winter cold, using a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water to protect against freezing.

Never pour hot water on door locks or windows to deice them, as they may crack. Frozen door locks can be overcome by carefully heating the end of a key with a match or lighter. A squirt of de-icer spray is another quick method.

Lindley Estes:  540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

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