RICHMOND (AP) --Winds started to pick up dramatically and temperatures began to take a nose dive Wednesday as winter weather began to move through the region.

13News Meteorologist Jeff Lawson says Hampton Roads will continue to see some areas of precipitation until late evening and it will be a mix of weather types.

'When the precipitation is heavier it will be snow and when it is lighter it will be a mix or rain. Minor accumulations are possible for some far inland areas north or west. For the rest of us any snow should melt on contact,' said Lawson.

The other big stories will be the wind and tides. Lawson says high tides will run about two feet above normal, which will mean a total water level of around five feet. That is 1 1/2 to two feet below what we saw with Sandy. The winds will be sustained at 20-30 mph and gust over 45 mph at times. Lawson says they could even gust to over 50 mph near the open water.

Virginia state workers in Richmond headed home for the day early as the winter storm continued to pile on snow in central and western portions of the state.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said at a news briefing Wednesday that the workers were given the green light to go at 1 p.m., and he warned that the storm that has buried nearly one-fourth of the state will likely cause more power failures.

Snow depths range from several inches in the Richmond area to about 20 inches in the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains.

Utility officials said that by 2 p.m. Wednesday, power had been restored to 61,000 of the 181,000 customers who lost power.

'We are working in challenging conditions to get the lights back on for our customers quickly while maintaining safety as our first priority safety of our customers and safety of our crews,' said Rodney Blevins, Vice President of Electric Distribution Operations.

Up to 18 inches of heavy, wet snow had fallen in the northern two-thirds of Dominion's service area, and the forecasts call for continued snowfall and increasing winds as the day progresses, according to utility officials.

262 Dominion Power employees from Hampton Roads and northeast North Carolina are helping in affected areas. Some left Tuesday and were already out working to restore power in the northern Virginia. Others were leaving Wednesday, said spokeswoman Bonita Harris.

State Police reports the busiest area for traffic crashes is the Metro-Richmond area.

Statewide from midnight Wednesday through 2 p.m., Virginia troopers responded to 556 traffic crashes and 386 disabled vehicles.

State police dispatchers fielded more than 757 additional calls for assistance and other information.

Officials said the majority of the crashes involved damaged vehicles only. There have been no reported traffic fatalities resulting from storm conditions.

However, as the winds continue to pick up across the state, police are advising motorists to be on the lookout for downed trees, power lines, and debris in the roadways.

In North Carolina, Dare County officials report sound side flooding on NC12, south of the Oregon Inlet Bridge, in spots south of the new inlet temporary bridge. Water is standing 6 inches deep in places.

Officials also report some flooding in Rodanthe, Salvo and Waves, all from the sound side. There is no ocean overwash reported in the Mirlo Beach area and the road remains open.

Motorists are urged to exercise caution in these areas.

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