Happy New Year! I hope each of you had the opportunity to enjoy some much deserved time off with family and friends. It appears that the beginning of the new year and winter weather are becoming a tradition in Hampton Roads. With snow in the forecast this week, I wanted to provide you with the “latest” information about potential impacts and what decisions, if any, we will make to operations’ schedules this week.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning from 1pm today to 1 pm tomorrow. Snowfall is expected starting late today (around 4-6 pm and with steady snowing by 7 pm) and lasting through tomorrow morning. Snow accumulation between 6-8 inches is expected along with temperatures in the 20s during the event. Gusty winds Thursday (up to 30 mph) may cause blowing snow and reduced visibility. Given the fact that we’ve experienced significantly below average temperatures for the past week, road treatments will be unusually challenging. Our Public Works staff have been pre-treating roads since yesterday and are preparing the best course of action to treat the roads and keep us safe. Please note that - because temperatures are so low - normal brine solutions will not be available in evening hours when we have freezing temperatures. We may not clear the roads fully to avoid the risk of black ice, but instead plow most (but not all) of the snow off the roads. Driving on packed snow is preferable to black ice. Please remember our priority must be the main/arterial roads. Like most cities in the region, we do not clear residential roads so please exercise caution when traveling during and after the snow event.
Of course the big question is "Will the City close?" As most of you are aware, my goal is to keep the City open whenever it is safely possible. Our residents count on us to be here for them and, excepting very extreme and rare circumstances, we simply do not close. However, the safety of our employees and residents ultimately determine our operational status. For this reason, I am instituting liberal leave today beginning at 2 pm. This is two hours before the projected onset of snow. This will allow those of you who have concerns about travel home to leave in time before the snowfall actively begins. Liberal leave will continue through Thursday, January 4th. This may be extended to Friday, January 5th if conditions continue to warrant it. As a reminder, liberal leave is available for those employees not designated as critical/essential for emergency condition operations. Anyone wishing to exercise the liberal leave option must coordinate with his or her supervisor and/or department head.
Knowing that the snow is likely to begin falling in the 4-6 pm timeframe, we are going ahead and making the decision to close the libraries, parks and community centers tonight at 5 p.m. to ensure that residents and employees of those units are not traveling in the worst of the conditions, especially after dark, outlined above.
If we decide to open late or close any City operations Thursday, we will alert the media and 311. I will also try to alert employees via email. Again, employee and resident safety will be the driving factor in our decisions. We look at reports from our Public Works, Police and Fire crews about road conditions before making these decisions. As always, you can confirm the status of operations (whether we have liberal leave, delayed openings, etc.) by checking with your supervisor, calling 311 (757-727-8311), checking the City’s website(www.hampton.gov) and/or social media, and/or monitoring local radio and television.
I will send updates as additional information becomes available. Take care, stay warm and be safe!