Powerful, icy winter blast could grip Virginia for days

snow in virignia_542694

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – The powerful blast of snow and cold that barreled through Virginia’s coastal cities packed a winter punch seldom seen in those communities. Now much of the region could remain in the storm’s icy grip for days.

Jen Edwards of Norfolk said she’s never seen such a heavy snowfall as Thursday’s.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Edwards, remarking on the several inches (centimeters) of white stuff on the ground.

Edwards, 46, works in human resources at ADS Inc., a Virginia Beach-based government contractor that supplies equipment to the military and other agencies. She said she “got to play Santa Claus” after the company gave a rare day off, allowing workers at two massive warehouses to stay home.

As falling snow blanketed the ground Thursday, at least one man strapped on skis to venture out for bagels for his family.

“It’s like ’Yay, I get to go out,’” said Mark Schoenenberger, a 45-year-old NASA engineer who cross-country skied to Yorgo’s Bageldashery in Norfolk for a sack of bagels.

With snow whipping past Yorgo’s on Thursday morning, owner Greg Peterman was keeping things in perspective.

“If this were a hurricane, my hair would be turning gray,” Peterman said. The 44-year-old said his last home in low-lying Norfolk was flooded twice during hurricanes. But he added, “This is more workable.”

Not that Virginia escaped the so-called bomb cyclone. It shuttered schools, government offices and businesses. Nearly all flights were canceled at Norfolk International Airport. About 45,000 residents lost power and more than 100 drivers stalled or crashed on roads.

Authorities also reported two deaths: A girl was hit by a pickup truck while sledding in the Richmond suburb of Chesterfield County and a 75-year-old man was struck by a snow plow in the Hampton area while clearing snow from a parking lot. Police said both died in hospitals.

For some the snow brought headaches.

Jonathan Rogers, 30, and his 35-year-old brother Jason Mitchell got stuck about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from their Norfolk home after working overnight at a local hospital.

Mitchell, a cook, said they had originally planned on a 30-minute walk. But he said his girlfriend insisted they drive despite the slick roads and the snow trapped their car at least twice – once just feet from some often-used train tracks.

“I knew this would happen,” Mitchell said.

The U.S. Navy required only “mission essential” personnel in the region to report for duty, including those at the world’s largest naval base in Norfolk. Among them was Thomas Carrico, 25, who serves on the USS Vella Gulf, a guided missile cruiser.

The ship gets hot when it sails into the Middle East, he said, and equally cold in winter weather. So he’s used to extremes.

“It’s like a giant cooler because it’s all metal,” he said with a shrug. “You give and you take.”

Thursday’s weather was relatively mild – the low was forecast at 10 degrees (-12 Celsius) – compared with what’s to come. The temperature is expected to fall to a low of about 5 degrees (-15 Celsius) Saturday, keeping 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of snow on the ground.


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