Forecasters are now anticipating significant snowfall across the Lynchburg region today as the first winter weather storm of the season makes it way north into the heart of Virginia.
The storm is expected to dump around six inches of snow throughout the day with accumulation beginning around 10 a.m. and stretching into early Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Blacksburg.
“You probably won’t start seeing snow until around sunrise and then it will get heavier through the day,” said Robert Stonefield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg.
On Saturday, forecasters upped predicted snowfall totals and expanded their winter storm warning to include Amherst County. Previously the city of Lynchburg and Bedford, Campbell and Appomattox counties were under a winter storm warning. Nelson County is under a winter storm watch as of Saturday evening.
The evolving forecasts prompted Gov. Ralph Northam to declare a state of emergency Saturday.
“I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure localities and communities have appropriate assistance and to coordinate state response to possible snow and ice accumulations, transportation issues, and potential power outages,” Northam said in a news release.
Officials are asking residents to stay indoors, warning that the storm is expected to blanket roadways and create dangerous conditions for drivers.
“This being the first snowfall, if you don’t need to travel stay in,” Stonefield said. “It’s Sunday, have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, sit down and watch the snowfall and wait for football to start.”
On Friday, the Virginia Department of Transportation began pre-treating roads and preparing crews for long shifts. According to a news release from VDOT spokesperson Paula Jones, the department will operate on a continual 24-hour basis when the storm hits.
The winter weather could also knock out power Sunday afternoon as heavy snow could down trees and power lines. Areas south of Lynchburg are expected to see higher totals and are at a greater risk of losing electricity, Stonefield said.
Power companies have shifted extra resources to the region in anticipation of the winter weather, including Appalachian Power which has brought in contractors, assessors and out-of-state crews, according to a news release from the company.
Across the region Saturday, residents visited grocery and hardware stores to stock up on food and supplies ahead of the storm.
At Overstreet ACE Hardware on Lakeside Drive Saturday, owner Chuck Overstreet said customers have been pouring in to buy shovels, heating items and sleds.
“It’s been very, very busy,” Overstreet said. “We probably really saw it starting Thursday afternoon and it has continued to stay busy.”
Kelly Scott of Appomattox was one of hundreds of residents in the region who spent Saturday buying groceries in preparation for Sunday’s winter weather.
She scoured the aisles of the well-stocked Walmart on Old Forest Road looking for water, milk and “something easy to fix in case the power goes out.” Scott said she intends to spend the day indoors with her family.
“The snow is going to slow us down and I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “It’ll be a little break from the rat race.”