Snowstorm on the Eastern Shore: Stay off the roads, officials warn

Video of our backyard on Plantation Creek at Custis Tomb, south of Cape Charles. Extreme winds and 8-to-10 inch drifts. Video courtesy Bill Poocher

ONLEY, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- The Eastern Shore woke up Thursday morning to a layer of white on its doorsteps and the National Weather Service says more snow is on way, at least until about 1 p.m.

A winter storm warning and a blizzard warning remained in effect for the region until 1 p.m. 

As an Arctic day dawned in Salisbury, inert cars dotted several roads with their hazard lights flashing. Most were of the two-wheel drive variety.

Karlo Paver knows a thing or two about driving in the snow. He’s from Iowa.

But Thursday morning, he had sloshed only about a block in his rented Toyota Camry before it lodged itself hopelessly in the snow.

“I didn’t see how thick this area was, and I thought this was a turn lane,” said Paver, who is staying at a Salisbury hotel while he oversees construction work at the soon-to-open Proximity Malt plant in Laurel.

Paver sat in his running car for about 15 minutes. His insurance company turned down his request for help. But that help would soon take a different form: a Dodge Ram pickup truck with a set of towing cables.

Ray Bradford of Salisbury hooked up the rear of the Toyota to his front bumper, threw his truck in reverse and hauled the car back onto solid ground. Paver turned around and drove the block back to his hotel, hazard lights flashing all the way.

The National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia, says an additional 3-6 inches of snowfall is expected for Maryland's Eastern Shore before the storm leaves the region later this afternoon.

For what would be a normal business day in Salisbury, things were unusually quiet. Many stores and restaurants were dark inside.

Not so at the Wawa gas station at Dagsboro Road and North Salisbury Boulevard. Outside, assistant manager John Venters shoveled the walk and shook out heaps of crystalized salt from a paper cup.

He arrived at 6 a.m., just another day at work but for his drive from the Long Neck area of Sussex County taking an hour and a half.

“One guy told me he got to here from Lewes in 45 minutes,” Venters said, shaking his head. “I don’t know how he did that. I wasn’t trying to break speed records.”

Destiny Wilkenson did not stay off the roads, and ended up stuck in her car in Salisbury. 

"I kind of just wanted to go out and see it all," she said. "Probably should have walked now that I think about it. But the people around here are so friendly, I had five gentlemen stop and help push my car out."

Eddie Murdock was “taking a stroll in the snow” in downtown Salisbury.

“I love the snow," he said. "Been waiting for a good snowfall for a few years. I just wanted to get out this morning and enjoy everything. We don't get to enjoy this too often.” 

The storm in Virginia

In Virginia, roughly 4 inches of snow had fallen east of Onley by 6:30 a.m.

The highway department reported the condition of Route 13 northbound in Northampton County, Virginia was severe, with deep snow or ice from the southern boundary of the county to the Accomack County line.

Sgt. Andrew Saucedo of the U. S. Army National Guard was out on the Eastern Shore of Virginia's back roads during the thick of the winter storm Thursday morning.

His unit, from Virginia Beach, got to the Eastern Shore on Wednesday night to lend assistance in what is likely to be among the worst snowstorms in recent memory.

By mid-morning, Saucedo and his fellow Guardsman already had picked up two doctors and taken them to Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital, and picked up Virginia state troopers to take them to work. Then they headed out through deep drifts on snowbound Locustville Road to pick up a dispatcher who was headed to work at the Eastern Shore of Virginia 911 Center.

Asked about road conditions they saw Thursday morning, Saucedo was succinct: "White ... There are still vehicles broken down in the middle of Route 13 ... Right now, I wouldn't go anywhere."

Saucedo has done tours of duty in both Afghanistan and Iraq, so harsh conditions are nothing new to him — it's just snow blowing instead of sand, he said.

The Virginia Beach Guardsmen are staying at the Onancock Armory.

Virginia State Police in the Chesapeake Division, which includes the Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads areas, responded to 212 emergency calls between 8 p.m. Wednesday and 5 a.m. Thursday, as the winter storm moved across the region.

That number included 101 crashes and 74 disabled vehicles.

As of 6:15 a.m. Thursday, Chesapeake Division troopers were responding to six crashes and 18 disabled vehicle calls.

PHOTOS: Snowstorm in Hampton Roads

No fatalities were reported as of 6 a.m. Thursday, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. Most of the crashes involved damaged vehicles and there were a few injuries, she said, adding calls to police for disabled vehicles — those that get stuck or slide off a road but do not qualify as a crash — are increasing as the storm continues to push through.

The police remind people to call 511 or go to www.511virginia.org for road conditions and not to call 911 or #77 for that purpose. “We need to keep emergency lines open for emergency calls,” Geller said.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2018. All Rights Reserved


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