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Norfolk, Suffolk prepare resources ahead of winter weather

As Hampton Roads braces for the possibility of several inches of snow, crews are prepared to work 12-hour shifts to clear roads.

SUFFOLK, Va. — Crews in Suffolk and Norfolk are preparing ahead of a potential winter storm expected to arrive in Hampton Roads starting Thursday. 

According to the 13News Now weather team, Hampton Roads will be under a Winter Storm Watch Thursday night through Saturday morning, as several inches of snow are likely in the area.

“We have about 24 trucks that are going to be running 24 hours,” said Karl Marshall Sr., assistant director of public works operations at the City of Suffolk.

RELATED: Virginia Beach, Chesapeake crews prepare for winter storm

Suffolk Public Works crews are ready to use up to 1,600 tons of salt and 3,200 tons of sand to pre-treat the roads over the next few days. The resources are split, Marshall said, among the city’s four zones: Downtown Suffolk, Northern Suffolk, Holland and Whaleyville. 

“At the beginning, we are probably just going to run sand as an abrasive and then we will probably do a mix of salt and sand,” said Marshall. 

Marshall said his team will work snowplows on 12-hour shifts starting Thursday morning, through the weekend. 

City of Norfolk crews will follow a similar schedule, said Jim Redick, director of Norfolk’s emergency preparedness and response.

Staff spent part of Wednesday checking equipment.

“One of the things we are doing right now is making sure they are maintained and ready to go,” said Redick. 

Norfolk has 23 plow trucks, 21 spreader trucks, 16 pickup trucks fitted with plows, and 4 salt brine distributor trucks, along with 2,300 tons of salt, 900 tons of sand and 10,000 gallons of brine, which is a wet salt solution.

The city is also requesting additional resources from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, just in case.

The City of Suffolk Office of Emergency Management is also coordinating with the VDOE and the National Weather Service to monitor the weather. 

“Right now, our biggest challenge is staffing,” said Marshall. 

Marshall said several people are not available because of COVID, and he’s pulling staff from traffic engineering to work the plows.

Main roadways will remain the focus for both cities. 

In Suffolk, that includes U.S. Routes 17, 58 and 460, and State Route 10. For an interactive map of the city’s route for clearing public roadways, click here

Along with primary roads, Redick said Norfolk crews will also focus on bridges and clearing paths to emergency services, like hospitals. The city is also prioritizing resources and shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

For more on the City of Norfolk’s plan for winter weather, click here

Redick and Marshall asked for patience because it could take a few days before conditions are clear.

“It’s going to take some time and during that time hopefully the sun plays its part and starts to melt some of those areas in the residential roads,” said Redick.

They advised people to avoid roadways, if possible. If not, drivers should not try to pass snowplows or follow closely.

“Just stay out of the way,” said Marshall.  “Let the plows do their jobs. Let the trucks do their jobs.”

Other suggestions provided by the City of Suffolk: 

  • Drivers should travel cautiously and slowly, and give plenty of space between other vehicles. Also, you are encouraged to remove all snow and ice from your vehicle before driving. 

  • Shovel sidewalks as soon as possible after storm; however, avoid shoveling snow from driveways or sidewalks into the roadway. 

  • If you can, clear snow around fire hydrants; firefighters will be able to respond more quickly in the event of an emergency.

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