VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- The Commonwealth of Virginia is ready. Or, as ready as it can be.
That's the word today from the state's top leaders.
Governor Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne say roads are pre-treated and equipment and personnel are pre-staged across Hampton Roads.
"We are going to have a major weather event here in Hampton Roads," he said. " I just got off the phone, we're looking at 10 to 12 inches here in Hampton Roads, and probably the hardest hit in Hampton Roads will be Virginia Beach."
McAuliffe said state government is doing its part to prepare for the storm, with 555 pieces of snow removal equipment already in place, and 70 more on the way plus 23 so called "tiger teams" from the state Department of Transportation en route.
The governor urges citizens to stay home.
"We've got a lot of great football on TV this weekend," he said. "But, if it is 12 inches, it's going to take time for our equipment to get it off. So on the weekend, stay home, watch football, have a cold beer, enjoy. But just don't be on the roads. Because it's going to be a significant amount of snow."
It falls to the Virginia Department of Transportation to pre-treat the major highways before the snow falls, and then afterwards to clear those roads off.
"I'm trying to remember the last time we had a foot of snow, but I know any time we have more than five to six inches, it will bring the area to a standstill," said Layne. "So that's why we've been our preparing, making sure that not only the local resources but the state resources are available to to help the citizens here."
Layne is confident the region will get through this.
"VDOT, other emergency personnel are out. We've been pre-treating the roads," he said. "Over 450 people directly using 550 pieces of equipment will be available. So in case of an emergency, I'm comfortable we'll be able to get to you. But I would caution everybody if you don't have to go out on the roads, please don't be out on them.
Virginia Beach City manager Dave Hansen said snow might not melt until Tuesday or Wednesday, meaning plows are unlikely to make it into the neighborhoods so school may be delayed.
The Virginia National Guard issued the following statement on their prepared response:
Governor McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon and urged residents of the Commonwealth to prepare for impacts from a winter storm system, which potentially could result in significant snow accumulation, hazardous road conditions and high winds. This order authorizes state agencies to assist local governments in responding to this major winter storm that is expected to impact the Commonwealth through the weekend.
“We are strongly encouraging everyone in Virginia to prepare for the possibility of snowfall, especially in Southeast Virginia, where forecasts predict accumulations could exceed 12 inches, as well as dangerous road conditions, power outages, and high winds,” said Governor McAuliffe. “I have been briefed by the National Weather Service and my emergency team, who are tracking this storm and following the potential impacts it could have across much of the state. I urge Virginians to limit travel as the severe weather arrives and evacuate if recommended by officials. We hope this storm passes quickly through our Commonwealth, but our top priority must be to ensure the safety of our citizens and their families.”
In declaring a state of emergency, the governor authorizes state agencies to identify and position resources for quick response anywhere they are needed in Virginia.
"We anticipate that localities in the Hampton Roads will need high mobility transport and debris reduction capabilities, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management requested that we stage personnel with vehicles and chain saws in order to rapidly respond if needed," said Brig. Gen. Paul F. Griffin, director of the joint staff for the Virginia National Guard. "It is important for us to stage personnel and equipment before the severe weather hits, so we are moving them into place Friday evening to be ready first thing Saturday morning."
Expected missions for the Guard include using Humvees and light/medium tactical trucks to provide transportation for first responders through deep snow or help evacuate citizens in need of shelter, Griffin said. Soldiers will also be organized into debris reduction teams with chain saws to help clear roads if needed.
During domestic operations, the Virginia National Guard receives missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist the Virginia State Police and other state and local emergency service organizations and is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, Griffin said.
“We ask that if anyone needs assistance because of the severe weather, that they call 911 or their local dispatcher and do not contact the Virginia National Guard directly,” Griffin said. "If you let them know you need help, they will determine what emergency services are best suited to assist you. They will contact us if it appropriate for us to take action.”
The Virginia National Guard last served on state active duty Oct. 9-10, 2016, when more than 160 soldiers assisted with the multi-agency state response to Hurricane Matthew in the Hampton Roads area. Soldiers driving Humvees and light/medium tactical trucks provided high water transportation and were also helped clear debris and open roads blocked by fallen trees.