Clearing the snow

Salt dumping and snow plowing was scheduled to continue well into the night Thursday after a storm left at least 6 inches of snow in the region.

As of the afternoon, most of the snow had fallen in the area, with Virginia Department of Transportation road crews moving into the residential areas in Prince William County, the primary and secondary roads were already cleared in the morning. In Manassas, the city’s busiest streets were cleared by mid-morning as well.

Even with the major routes throughout the state already salted and plowed, VDOT was urging motorists to avoid driving and to ”use extreme caution when traveling.” Manassas declared a snow emergency at 10 a.m., requesting city residents not to park on major city streets.

Despite the extra work it would entail the city as it cleared additional sidewalks and parking lots of snow, there was no talk in Manassas of canceling today’s tree lighting or the Christmas parade Saturday.

Gov. Mark R. Warner chose to forgo an appearance Thursday morning at the Springfield interchange of Interstate 495, also known as the “Mixing Bowl.” The governor instead will speak on Virginia Department of Transportation reform today in Richmond.

Coming from the south, the storm tied up traffic across the state. Schools, local governments and businesses were closed, and thousands were left without electricity.

By the early afternoon, the National Weather Service was predicting that a total of 6 to 10 inches of snow would be left in the Washington region, though the weather was expected to clear up by Friday with temperatures in the 40s predicted for the weekend.

In both Prince William County and Manassas, much of the snow came down in a matter of only one or two hours in the early morning, leaving road crews scrambling to keep ahead.

“It was coming down at a pretty good clip,” said Mike Moon, Manassas’ director of public works.

As of 2 p.m., VDOT had used 3,900 of the 15,000 tons of salt it had at hand in Prince William County. The clearing of the roads was a massive effort, involving all of the 200 pieces of equipment, such as salt loaders and plow trucks, that the agency had in the county.

“We weren’t too surprised. Our weather people were able to predict the storm pretty well. So we were able to get our equipment well placed,” said Bob Suddutch, the local VDOT maintenance operations manager.

In Manassas, up to 330 tons of a salt had been dumped on city roads and there was a total of 28 city and contracted workers operating 25 vehicles. The city chose not to use all of the contracted help available, deciding that it had enough already on hand.

“We can actually mobilize a little bit more. We pulled the full city contingent on this,” Moon said.

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