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State police respond to nearly 1,200 crashes amid storm, area schools cancel Tuesday classes

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The snowstorm that blanketed the Richmond area is gone, but the wintry weather left in its wake spun-out motorists, stranded vehicles and schools shuttered for yet another day on Tuesday.

Melted snow could refreeze overnight, so officials at the Virginia Department of Transportation are urging motorists to be extremely careful if they venture out on the roads on Tuesday.

“We’ve made progress on most interstates and primary routes. Crews are focusing on secondary routes at this point,” said Jessica Cowardin, a spokeswoman for VDOT’s Richmond office, on Monday afternoon. “They have been able to get into some neighborhoods. Most of them are still fully or partially covered in snow, but they are still working around the clock.”

Officials in the Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and Richmond school systems canceled classes Tuesday for the second day in a row due to road conditions and cold temperatures. Tuesday will be the fourth day area districts have canceled school this year — the first two coming from hurricanes Michael and Florence in the fall.

Last year, area schools took seven snow days, prompting schools to make several schedule adjustments, including holding classes on Presidents Day. Districts are required to meet instructional hour criteria set by the Virginia Department of Education, which forces them to extend school days or schedule extra days if there are too many cancellations.

State police said they responded to 1,177 traffic crashes from early Sunday morning until 10 a.m. Monday. Authorities said the Richmond division of the state police handled 398 wrecks, the most crashes in the state during that time frame. State police said shortly before noon on Monday that they had responded to 1,589 calls for disabled vehicles, adding that 356 of those calls were handled by the Richmond division.

There have been no traffic deaths reported with the storm, but authorities said four state police cruisers were struck after other vehicles lost control on slick roads .

One incident happened at 7:39 a.m. Monday when Master Trooper K.S. Holt’s patrol car was struck by a vehicle that lost control on the icy Interstate 95 overpass at the 46 mile marker in Prince George County, state police said. Neither the trooper nor the other driver was injured, according to authorities.

Earlier on Monday, at 3:58 a.m., a vehicle heading north on Interstate 295 in Henrico County spun out of control and hit several vehicles, including the patrol car of a trooper investigating an earlier crash. Trooper J.W. Catlett, who was in his vehicle at the time of the crash, was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. No other injuries were reported in the crash.

Another trooper’s car was hit shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday while stopped with his emergency signals flashing to assist a disabled vehicle along southbound Interstate 95 in Hanover County. A 2003 GMC Yukon traveling south lost control and struck the rear of the trooper’s vehicle, police said. Trooper C.J. Gefell was sitting in his vehicle at the time of impact.

A fourth trooper, D.T. Scaletta, was involved in a crash Sunday evening on Interstate 81 in Pulaski County when a northbound vehicle lost control and struck the trooper’s patrol car.

The troopers in the Hanover and Pulaski accidents escaped injury, the state police said.

State police said downed trees and debris on roads created hazards particularly in the western part of the state. On Monday morning, police said they had received 119 calls for downed trees or debris in roads.

In Henrico, fallen trees closed Old Oakland Road between Oakvale Street and Northbury Avenue, county police said on Monday morning. Pheasant Chase Place was also closed due to a tree up to 3 feet wide, said Henrico police Lt. Lauren Hummel. Six houses were blocked in by that tree, Hummel wrote in an email.

In Hanover, sheriff’s deputies responded to 117 crashes and 276 calls about disabled vehicles from 8 a.m. Sunday through noon Monday, said Sgt. James Cooper. Several roads were closed during the height of the storm on Sunday, but Cooper said that as of Monday afternoon, there were no road closures in the county.

“All the primary roads [in Hanover] are clear. Secondary roads are clear as well because of all of VDOT’s hard work,” Cooper said Monday afternoon. “The only roads that are an issue right now are our neighborhood roads.”

VDOT officials said they would continue to treat the roads with sand and salt until they are passable.

As of 9:45 a.m. Monday, more than 7,000 Dominion Energy customers in the Richmond and Tri-Cities areas were without power.

Dominion reported that a total of 28,671 customers were without power across the state on Monday morning. By 4:30 p.m., that statewide outage figure had dropped to 14,216.

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sgorman@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6885

Staff writer Justin Mattingly contributed to this report.

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John Boyer

John Boyer, the RTD's staff meteorologist

John Boyer is the first staff meteorologist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the RTD newsroom in November 2016 after covering severe weather on television in Tulsa, Okla.

As a native of the Roanoke area, the region’s heavy snowstorms started his fascination with Virginia’s changing weather.

Boyer earned his degree in meteorology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He is a member of the American Meteorological Society and earned their Certified Broadcast Meteorologist seal in 2012.

Look for his stories in the RTD and on Richmond.com, along with videos and forecast updates for major weather events in our area.

Email him your story ideas and weather tips.

Thursday Weatherline

Nov.’s warmest temperature so far: 70

Richmond usually enjoys at least one toasty day in November with a high at or above 75 degrees. So far this month, the warmest reading was 70 on both Nov. 5 and 11. The last time any November had a cooler maximum temperature was 1997, which peaked at 68.

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