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Scott Shenk writes about transportation issues affecting Fredericksburg-area residents. You can email him at sshenk@freelancestar.com.

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Watch for slick roads as temperatures drop

The Virginia Department of Transportation is warning drivers that Fredericksburg area roads could become slick as temperatures drop tonight. Those headed out tonight or early Thursday should be cautious.

Here’s VDOT’s release:

Motorists are urged to reduce their speed and allow extra travel time Thursday morning as icy conditions may develop overnight as temperatures drop.

Any remaining patches of slush and wet pavement could freeze overnight. Conditions may be especially slick on bridges, overpasses and ramps, which freeze first, and on secondary roads with low traffic volumes and shaded spots. Due to snow accumulation blocking drainage systems, road surfaces may be damper than usual.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews remain on duty plowing roads and spreading sand, salt and abrasives to melt snow and give drivers additional traction.

Road conditions have improved in the Fredericksburg area this afternoon, with clear to minor conditions on Interstate 95, primary roads, and high-volume secondary roads. Subdivision streets are in moderate condition.

All roads are clear in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, with wet pavement and mixed precipitation falling.

Interstate and primary roads are VDOT’s first priority for snow removal, since they carry the highest volume of traffic. Once these roads are clear, VDOT will concentrate on key secondary routes, and then subdivision streets. VDOT’s goal is to have all roads passable within 48 hours of a storm’s end.

High winds on the Middle Peninsula overnight may lead to downed trees and tree limbs, which could block travel lanes. Tree contractors are working throughout the District to assist VDOT crews as they work to re-open any affected roads.

Motorist Resources

Motorists can call 511, visit www.511Virginia.org, or use VDOT’s 511Virginia free mobile app to find real-time road conditions in any area of the state.

Road conditions may be rated as clear, minor, moderate or severe.

  • Clear: No conditions.
  • Minor:  Bare pavement, except for isolated spots of snow, ice or slush.
  • Moderate: Snow or ice is covering major portions of the roadway.
  • Severe: Significant amount of snow or ice is covering the roadway, and roadway may be partially blocked or affected by drifting snow.

UPDATE (1:10 p.m.) Spotsylvania is reporting that U.S. 1 in the Massaponax area is closed in both directions because of a downed power line. The closed section is in the area of Guinea Station Road.

UPDATE (1:06 p.m.): Road conditions on some primary roads have gotten worse, VDOT reports.

“Portions of Route 1, Route 2, Route 3, Route 17, and Route 208 in Spotsylvania County are in severe condition,” according to VDOT.

Interstate 95 is still in moderate condition.

Virginia State Police have been plenty busy, responding to nearly 1,400 calls for service between midnight and 10 a.m. today. So far, as of 10 a.m., there had been 367 crashes and 237 disabled vehicles. No fatalities have been reported.

Late this morning, there was a tractor-trailer crash in Caroline County has shut down a portion of Route 30, according to VDOT. The road is expected to remain closed into late afternoon.

Here is the list of VDOT road condition ratings:

  • Clear: No conditions.
  • Minor:  Bare pavement, except for isolated spots of snow, ice or slush.
  • Moderate: Snow or ice is covering major portions of the roadway.
  • Severe: Significant amount of snow or ice is covering the roadway, and roadway may be partially blocked or affected by drifting snow.

 

UPDATE (11:40 a.m.): VDOT is reporting that Fredericksburg area’s primary roads are still in moderate shape with snow and slush. Secondary roads are in worse shape.

Crews are focusing on primary roads and Interstate 95, but with snowfall expected to continue and high winds also predicted, conditions likely will get worse. Already felled trees are reported, including on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania (see below).

“Stop signs, traffic signals, and other road signs may be partially or completely covered by snow this morning, due to high winds and drifting snow,” said VDOT’s Kelly Hannon. “Motorists should treat all intersections as a 4-way stop when a traffic signal lacks power, is obscured by snow, or is operating in flash mode.”

UPDATE (11:15 a.m.): There are reports of a couple of bad spots in Spotsylvania drivers should avoid.

The eastbound lanes of State Route 3 are closed in the Elys Ford Road (Chancellorsville) area because of downed trees and possibly accidents.

The 8300 block of Brock Road between Gordon and Hanckock roads is closed because of “extreme ice,” according to a Spotsylvania alert.

UPDATE (9:35 a.m.): Spotsylvania County has sent out an alert saying roads are “very treacherous” and advised residents to avoid traveling if possible.

UPDATE (9:25 a.m.): VDOT is reporting a crash involving a tractor-trailer on southbound Interstate 95 at the 144 mile marker in Stafford. The center and right lanes are reported closed. There also was a tractor-trailer crash reported on southbound I-95 in Caroline at mile marker 108 about an hour ago.

Snow is still falling and plows are out trying to keep the roads clear.

The Virginia Department of Transportation reported earlier this morning that Interstate 95 was clear with slushy conditions on the shoulder and ramps.

Area primary and secondary roads are mostly coated by the slushy snow. Though conditions are deemed moderate by VDOT, the highway department suggested that travel should be avoided until conditions improve.

But snow is expected to fall throughout the day and high winds are expected later, so that could cause problems for drivers. The wind could hamper visibility and cause trees and power lines to fall.

Expect to see VDOT crews throughout the day as they are on 24-hour emergency schedules.

As for other modes of transportation, there is no Virginia Railway Express service or FREDericksburg Regional Transit bus service today.

Look for road updates here throughout the day.

Here is a list of area road conditions, as reported on VDOT 511:

  • Caroline: Primary roads are in minor condition with icy patches; secondary roads, bridges and ramps are in moderate condition with snow or ice.
  • Culpeper: All roads are considered to be in moderate condition with snow or ice.
  • Fauquier: All roads are moderate with snow or ice, with some in areas in severe condition.
  • King George: Roads are in minor condition with icy patches.
  • Louisa: Primary roads reported to be in minor condition with icy patches; secondary roads considered to be moderate with snow or ice.
  • Orange: All roads reported to be moderate with snow or ice.
  • Spotsylvania roads reported as mostly moderate with snow or ice; some primaries reported as minor.
  • Stafford roads reported as moderate with snow or ice.
  • Westmoreland: Roads are clear.

VDOT Snow Driving Tips

  • Keep your car’s windows, mirrors and lights clear of snow and ice.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Leave a few minutes early.
  • 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 it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would emergency response vehicles.
  • Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car.
  • Drive smart and pay close attention

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