- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 6, 2010

RICHMOND — A historic winter storm left some parts of Virginia under nearly 3 feet of snow Saturday, knocking out power to 175,000 utility customers and collapsing buildings.

“The accumulations that have been reported now have been historic,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said during a teleconference with state emergency officials. He cited a high snowfall of 33 inches in Loudoun County, in northern Virginia, and 2 feet along the Interstate 81 corridor in western Virginia.

Snow depths are “fast approaching the highest accumulations in the 103 years that these statistics have been kept,” said McDonnell, who declared a snow emergency on Wednesday.

Virginia State Police, which had 75 percent of its uniformed officers on duty, had responded to 1,323 traffic accidents in the last 36 hours. Two crash deaths Friday in southwest Virginia were blamed on the weather.

The power outages were down from a high of 200,000, with the majority being customers of Dominion Virginia Power, the state’s largest utility. Most of the outages were in northern Virginia.

Appalachian Power reported nearly 40,000 customers without power, primarily in the southwest corner of the state, and small electric cooperatives were reporting power failures in the northern and western portions of the state.

“We anticipate this number going up with heavy, wet snowfall accumulations with icing, with freezing, overnight,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell and other officials advised residents to keep off the roads and to be mindful of their snowed-in neighbors.

“Obviously it’s a time for people to stay close to their neighbors, close to their families, to let people know if they do have a need,” McDonnell said.

Officials were particularly concerned about snowed-in residents in isolated sections of the state. Ski-resort vehicles that can navigate extreme snow depths were being lined up for emergency use.

“Our biggest concern is people in rural areas or in areas where the snow is just so deep that nobody can get into them,” said Michael Cline, coordinator of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

He said two buildings had collapsed under the weight of snow or high winds in southwest Virginia. No injuries were reported. In Charlottesville, the roof of a lumber supply company collapsed. No one was in the building at the time of the collapse.

The Virginia National Guard put 500 troops on active duty and positioned them in the hardest-hit areas, such as Fredericksburg, Waynesboro, Charlottesville and in northern Virginia. They were assisting local emergency crews.

The National Weather Service said runoff from snow and rain had caused a rapid rise of the Dan River near South Boston. Residents were advised to monitor local conditions.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said crews worked through the night to clear Interstates 81, 77 and 581. While clear of snow, road surfaces remain slick, VDOT said.

Along some roads, plows were piling snow so high, trucks had to be called in to haul the snow away so plowing could continue.

Heavy snow had brought down trees and limbs on roads in Henry, Patrick, Roanoke and Bedford counties. Crews are working to remove them.

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