Winter packs a wallop

Published 8:22 am Wednesday, March 4, 2009

As predicted, March came in like a lion.

Rain over the weekend turned to sleet and then snow on Monday, forcing area schools and offices to close, and residents to brave a brisk wind to dig themselves out.

But the unpleasant weather should be gone by the coming weekend, with temperatures expected to hit a very lamb-like 70 degrees on Saturday.

The area was spared the brunt of the snowfall that fell in other parts of the state.

By 9 a.m. Monday, an inch of snow had fallen in Franklin, Ivor and Smithfield.

By contrast, Midlothian received 10 inches of snow by Monday afternoon and New Kent had 6 inches. The entire northeastern U.S. was hit particularly hard.

Monday’s snow forced all public schools in Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties to close, as well as Franklin City Hall and the Southampton County Public Schools offices. The government complexes for Southampton and Isle of Wight counties opened two hours later than usual, as did Isle of Wight’s school offices. Southampton and Isle of Wight academies also closed, and Paul D. Camp Community College canceled classes at all campuses.

Many students took advantage of the snow day, including Victoria Blow, 13, an eighth-grader at Southampton Middle School. Victoria was one of several kids making snowmen.

“My mom woke me up this morning and told me it was snowing, so I got on my boots and got out here,” she said, busily gathering snow in her front yard.

Ryan Petrasek, a sophomore at Franklin High School, waited for a ride in front of his Crescent Street home, wearing sports gear that included shorts.

“I’m going to practice baseball,” he said. Ryan said he was supposed to write a paper in English on Monday but then classes were canceled.

“I was glad to get out of it,” he joked.

Those who had to work on Monday made the best of it, including Franklin businessman Billy Phillips, who dusted the snow off his car with a broom so he could make his commute downtown.

“It’s only two blocks down the hill, but I have errands to run,” he said.

Life began to return to normal Tuesday, with both public and private schools in Southampton and Isle of Wight counties opening later than usual to give bus drivers and parents extra time to navigate icy roads. Southampton County officials said public schools opened two hours later than usual.

In Isle of Wight County, classes at Windsor High and Windsor Middle School began at 8:58 a.m., and all elementary schools opened at 10:33 a.m. Buses were operating on a 90-minute delay. The morning’s breakfast program was canceled.

Southampton Academy, Isle of Wight Academy and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy also opened two hours later than usual. Tidewater Academy remained closed.

Schools in the city of Franklin opened on time Tuesday.

A public hearing on Southampton County Public Schools’ 2009-10 operating budget, originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, is rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. next Monday, March 9.

The sun was out Monday morning, but snow flurries had returned by 10:45 a.m. According to, Monday’s high in Franklin was 30 degrees. The temperature plummeted to 17 on Monday night, and was back up to 34 on Tuesday afternoon.

Daytime highs are expected to climb during the week, reaching 70 on Saturday.

On Monday, most of the roads in the Franklin, Southampton County and southern parts of Isle of Wight County were labeled by the Virginia Department of Transportation as having minor problems, meaning the roads were passable, but had the potential for icy patches.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Cotten said a combined total of 928 incidents and accidents occurred in Division 5 — which includes the city of Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties — from midnight to 7:43 p.m. Monday. There were no fatalities.

“I’ve been all over the county and the roads are OK,” Benny Necessary, a transportation operations manager with the Virginia Department of Transportation, said Monday while trucks were loaded with sand. “People need to drive for the conditions on the road. That’s what it amounts to. They need to slow down.”

Dominion Virginia Power reported fewer than 50 customers in Southampton County and about 300 customers in Isle of Wight County were without electricity on Monday. Spokesman Chuck Penn said Dominion restored power to those customers on Monday.

Meanwhile, the utility also said that it had restored electric service to nearly half of the 200,000 customers, mostly in central Virginia, who were affected by Sunday and Monday’s storms.

The National Weather Service in Wakefield reported that the temperature at Richmond International Airport through 6 a.m. Tuesday dropped to 12 degrees, breaking the previous record of 14 degrees, which was set in 1925.