- Associated Press - Friday, January 22, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The latest on the heavy snowfall in Virginia (all times local):

3:05 p.m.

Several hours of heavy snow have cleared out Richmond’s roads.

There’s virtually no traffic around downtown or some major thoroughfares as Friday’s snowstorm begins to dump snow on the city in earnest.

A BP gas station in suburban Chesterfield County was empty of customers though a clerk said there’d been brisk business Thursday on modern-day essentials - soda, cigarettes, gas, milk - as well as firewood.

Manager Neil Bhatia said firewood sales were so fast he had to call his supplier back and ask for more.

Bhatia said he plans to close the store early because of the snow.

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12:50 p.m.

Virginia’s big snowstorm produced the usual run on sleds, shovels and bags of salt at hardware stores.

At Pleasants Hardware in Richmond, Reggie Jones stowed four sleds, a shovel and two bottles of an ice-melting product in his SUV on Friday. The attorney and longtime lobbyist said everyone was looking for sleds, so he wanted to make sure there would be enough for kids in his neighborhood.

Darrell Campbell, the store’s vice president of sales, said business has been steady since Tuesday, when Virginia began to emerge as one of the states in the storm’s track. Truckloads of sleds, shovels and ice melt arrived Tuesday and again Thursday - and those items quickly went out the door.

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12:30 p.m.

Some Virginians were able to remain optimistic even as a major winter storm threatened to dump up to 2 feet of snow in portions of the state.

As the first snowflakes began to dust Richmond, Molly McCormick and Amanda Mitchell were loading plastic sacks of groceries into the hatchback of their car. But they weren’t just stocking up for a snowbound weekend - they were preparing for a Friday night dinner party.

Mitchell said they’d see if anyone shows up.

Mitchell is a teacher who had the day off when classes were canceled. McCormick, visiting from northern Virginia, said she figured on being stuck in Richmond until at least Sunday.

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11:45 a.m.

A Virginia State Police spokeswoman says numerous accidents and disabled vehicles have been reported during the ongoing snowstorm.

Spokeswoman Corinne Geller says over an 11-hour period Friday, State Police responded to 68 crashes statewide and 174 disabled vehicles. She says many involved vehicles in poor driving conditions.

Early Friday afternoon, troopers were investigating 117 crashes - most of them in the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions.

Geller says no fatalities have been reported.

She says residents are being advised to stay off the roads if possible.

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10:10 a.m.

The big snowstorm hitting Virginia is good news for skiers.

Hank Thiess, the general manager at the Wintergreen ski resort in central Virginia, says he’s expecting the giant snowfall to produce some of the best skiing conditions in a decade.

Thiess says there’s a potential for the mountain to get 40 inches of snow.

Wintergreen is warning skiers against trying to drive out to the slopes during the storm, but Thiess says once the snow has stopped and the roads are clear, there’s likely to be a big turnout for such prime conditions.

Thiess says the heavy snow should help the ski resort for weeks to come, and projects a terrific second half of the ski season.

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9:45 a.m.

A homeless shelter in the small southwest Virginia town of Galax has already gotten a handful of calls since the snow started falling from people needing coats, food or a place to stay.

Tammy Harmon, director of the Galax Hope House, says her shelter is beyond full capacity, with two people using extra cots.

She says demand was so high that she took some people to other shelters to make sure they were off the street before the storm.

Harmon says she feels the shelter is ready for the storm, as community members dropped off extra clothes and food before the snow started to fall.

She says the snow started falling in Galax around 3 a.m. and there are already several inches on the ground.

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9:20 a.m.

Portions of Virginia are under a blizzard warning.

The warning covers the central and northern Blue Ridge Mountains, where the National Weather Service says up to 2 feet of snow and strong winds will create dangerous, life-threatening conditions Friday and Saturday.

The blizzard warning in Virginia also stretches from the Fredericksburg area to the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

Southwestern, southern and portions of central Virginia are under a winter storm warning, while mostly rain is expected to fall in the Hampton Roads area, where the concern is for coastal flooding and high winds.

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7 a.m.

The big snowstorm has arrived in Virginia.

Some roads in southwest Virginia are already seeing deteriorating conditions as the storm moves north.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has about 2,500 crew members and more than 13,000 pieces of equipment for snow removal statewide, including plows, trucks and spreaders. It has more than 650,000 tons of salt, sand and abrasives available, along with nearly 2 million gallons of liquid salt.

VDOT says it plans to clear interstates and primary roads first, followed by secondary roads, particularly those with heavy traffic.

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