Good news: wintry mix is finally clearing out of the Richmond area and temperatures are now creeping above 32 degrees this afternoon.
The winter storm warning expired at noon.
Dominion Energy reported 10,311 outages in the Richmond metro and Tri-Cities area at noon, including 4,258 in Richmond and 3,918 in Chesterfield County. Those figures rose in the last hour.
Even though we'll start to thaw out this afternoon, it's possible that some trees could still give way in the hours ahead due to the ice load and soggy soil. Fortunately winds have been relatively light and aren't expected to get much stronger this afternoon.
Cloudy skies will persist this afternoon so we might not melt everything off. Be aware that standing water will refreeze overnight as readings drop well into the 20s.
11 a.m. update
Freezing rain continues to fall across central Virginia this morning but outage numbers are leveling off.
Dominion Energy reported on its outage map that it had 10,194 customers without power as of 11 a.m. -- most of those (8,243) in the Richmond and Tri-Cities region.
Richmond had 4,266 customers reported out. Chesterfield County outages were at 2,650, Hanover County had 562 and Henrico County had 423.
The National Weather Service and Virginia Department of Transportation reported multiple instances of trees or power lines down in roads throughout Chesterfield, Amelia, Nottoway, Dinwiddie, Prince Edward, Lunenburg and Brunswick counties. There are also scattered reports of similar damage toward the Northern Neck.
Some routes in southeastern Virginia are also blocked by high water following the heavy rain. Visit VDOT's 511 page for the latest incidents and conditions.
Waves of light freezing rain will continue to move across metro Richmond for the next hour or two. The rain may switch to snow showers at times, especially between Richmond, Louisa and Fredericksburg. At most, it would add up to a relatively light dusting.
Most of the precipitation will clear eastward into Tidewater by the early afternoon. A lingering sprinkle or flurry is still possible into the evening.
It may take until midday or the early afternoon for all of central Virginia to rise above freezing.
Highs will only make it to the mid or upper 30s today due to cloudiness, then lows will sink well into the 20s overnight.
7:30 a.m. update
Power outages jumped early Friday in central Virginia, with the Richmond area seeing the sharpest increase.
Dominion Energy reported on its outage map that it had 9,910 customers without power as of 7:15 a.m. -- most of those (8,745) in the Richmond and Tri-Cities region.
The city of Richmond had the most outages with 5,292, followed by Chesterfield with 2,003 and Henrico with 518.
According to a report sent to the National Weather Service, there's a streetlight down with wires in the road at the intersection of Petersborough and Devonshire streets in the Westover Hills neighborhood.
There were also incidents involving power lines on Scottview Drive in Stratford Hills and Kennondale Lane in the West End, according to the Richmond Emergency Communications active calls page.
The National Weather Service on Friday extended its winter storm warning for the region to noon. The warning was set to expire at 7 a.m.
Friday morning saw some issues on major roadways in Chesterfield County. There were reports of trees down on Powhite Parkway near the Courthouse Road exit, as well as trees blocking lanes of Rt. 288.
VDOT also had five reports of trees down on secondary roads in Chesterfield. There were four reports in Hanover County. Check 511Virginia.org for the latest reports on road issues.
VDOT said in a news release early Friday that crews were monitoring roads for black ice and treating slick spots with salt and sand.
“We’re asking drivers to use extra caution this morning because slick spots can occur anywhere and develop without warning," said Richmond District Infrastructure Manager Steve Fritton. "When the temperature is below freezing and the pavement is wet, the conditions are prime for the instantaneous formation of black ice.”
On Thursday, most of the traffic issues happened in the 7 a.m. hour during the morning commute and many involved crashes on ramps and overpasses.
VDOT also warned of localized flooding on low-lying roads on Friday.
On Thursday night, Virginia State Police reported that troopers had responded to 442 crashes and 310 disabled vehicles or stuck motorists between midnight and 9 p.m. Thursday.
The Richmond Division, which includes the Northern Neck and Tri-Cities, had 100 of those crashes and 55 disabled vehicles. The Fairfax Division had the most crashes with 107.
7 p.m. forecast update
Here's what to watch for with round two of the ice storm overnight into Friday morning.
The winter storm warning for metro Richmond remains in effect until 7 a.m. due to the likelihood of more freezing rain.
Part one delivered 0.15-inch to 0.25-inch ice amounts. Some of that melted this afternoon, but not all – and not enough to let our guards down.
As of 7 p.m., temperatures are now back below freezing for areas along and west of Interstate 95. Most of the Richmond metro area won't rise above freezing until sometime between daybreak and late morning on Friday. But overnight readings should be just warm enough to make for an ordinary rain across Tidewater and southeastern Virginia.
Another wave of rain showers will move through late overnight into Friday morning, otherwise it will be cloudy, damp and drizzly. Additional freezing rain amounts could be as high as 0.3-inch or as low as a 0.1-inch.
Freezing rain could also hit that range of amounts anywhere along the Interstate 95 corridor between Emporia and Caroline County, west to the Farmville area and northeast to Tappahannock. But much of the overnight rain will miss Louisa and points northwest, where additional icing of 0.1-inch or less is expected.
So depending on how the rain comes down for any particular spot, how soon we get above freezing, and how much ice is still in the trees from Thursday morning, there's still potential for enough ice buildup to down trees and branches and lead to new outages. That threshold is generally 0.25-inch or higher.
Debris falling into roads overnight could add an extra element of danger to driving conditions.
Showers will linger across central Virginia into midday Friday, possibly as late as the early afternoon. As the system departs, temperatures will get colder aloft but warmer at the ground. If the timing works out, the rain may end with a quick burst of snow but little-to-no accumulations.
Sustained north-northwesterly winds will mostly range from 5 to 10 mph on Friday. Again, we'll watch this closely in case stronger speeds put more pressure on the icy trees.
Temperatures in the mid-20s by Saturday morning could cause a hard refreeze of standing water.
The sun will be back out on Saturday, but with noticeably cold highs in the mid-to-upper 30s.
Saturday night looks even colder with a chance of dropping just below 20 degrees.
By the time our next precipitation chance arrives on Monday, temperatures should be mild enough to make for an ordinary rain.
2 p.m. forecast update
Freezing rain and sleet didn’t make for a pleasant morning. But the afternoon lull is finally here and we’re seeing some of what you hope to see to keep this winter storm away from the worst case scenario.
But we can’t let our guards down yet. Metro Richmond has another round of freezing rain in the forecast tonight, and icy conditions can be expected into Friday morning.
Some of the morning’s moisture fell as sleet instead of all freezing rain. While that made for some slicker roads, it kept outages from breaking out as quickly as we saw last Saturday.
As of 1:45 p.m., Dominion Energy reported 239 customers out in the Richmond metro and Tri-Cities area, and 1,969 in Southside Virginia. That’s up from 94 and 1,225, respectively, at 6:15 a.m.
There haven’t been many measurement reports so far in our area, but none were higher than 0.15-inch during that first wave of freezing rain.
The rainfall rate and 31 to 32 degree temperatures may have kept the rain from “sticking” to trees and wires as readily as it otherwise might have. Less sleet, a gentler rain rate and temperatures a couple of degrees colder could have put us on a much worse path heading into the night.
With round one behind us, many spots in metro Richmond have been able to get just above freezing this afternoon, though only by a degree or two. That might help with just a little bit of melting before round two, especially on roads, but we can’t count on a complete thaw. And temperatures are bound to drop back some overnight.
So now the big concern is: how much ice do we add going forward?
A second round of freezing rain is likely overnight, but computer models are still coming up with a lot of different solutions for the exact timing and amounts. We’re mostly looking at a window between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Friday for additional icing, though rain looks to be showery rather than constant.
Worst case: another 0.25 to 0.3 inches of ice builds up on elevated surfaces by daybreak on Friday. On its own that would be damaging, but added to the existing ice could get us close to that dreaded 0.5-inch total from the pre-storm forecasts.
Best case: 0.1-inch or so of new ice. But we don’t want any freezing rain, so we’ll root for a few extra degrees of warmth this afternoon and even lighter precipitation overnight.
But remain prepared for tree damage and outages later this evening through Friday morning. Debris falling into roads overnight could add an extra element of danger to driving conditions.
Look for another update later this afternoon.
-Meteorologist John Boyer
12:15 p.m. update
Round one of steady sleet and freezing rain will move out of central Virginia by the early afternoon.
After an afternoon lull, round two of freezing rain is expected this evening into Friday morning. Temperatures will continue to hover in the lower 30s for much of central Virginia.
11:30 a.m. update
Virginia State Police said a truck driver from Georgia has been charged with reckless driving after crashing his tractor-trailer in Hanover County on Thursday.
Troopers responded at 9:46 a.m. to the crash on Interstate 95 north at mile marker 88 near the Sliding Hill Road exit. Police said the 2015 Freightliner truck ran off the left side of the road and wound up in the median facing south.
Richard Anderson, 27, of Milledgeville, Ga., was charged with reckless driving - too fast for conditions. Police said Anderson was wearing a seatbelt and didn't report any injuries.
11:15 a.m. update
Virginia State Police said Thursday they have responded to 270 crashes and 165 disabled vehicles statewide since midnight.
In the Richmond Division, troopers have responded to 65 crashes and 27 disabled vehicles.
The Richmond Division extends from the Northern Neck in the east to Louisa County in the west, and from King George County in the north to Dinwiddie and Nottoway counties south and west of Petersburg.
State police said there have been no fatalities in any crashes.
10:30 a.m. update
GRTC has suspended services for Thursday due to unsafe conditions.
GRTC said in a news release that CARE customers who began service before 9 a.m. are being returned home.
A decision about Friday bus service would be made Thursday afternoon.
9:50 a.m. update
Central Virginia has a growing threat of outages and icy roads as sleet and freezing rain continues to fall.
Traffic and road conditions
The Virginia Department of Transportation is asking drivers to avoid travel as much as possible.
As of 9:30 a.m., many routes in metro Richmond are in "minor" condition due to patchy icy buildup. But "moderate" conditions are present north of Ashland and west of Short Pump where sleet has been heavier. Otherwise, roads may be wet but air temperatures are still hovering below freezing.
Dense fog and wintry precipitation are combining to cause a major slowdown on Interstate 95 between Richmond and Ashland.
A tractor trailer crash is slowing westbound Interstate 64 in Goochland County as of 9:26 a.m.
There were also two crashes on interstates in the Short Pump area over the past hour.
At least a dozen crashes were reported on Richmond area highways between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., many of them on exit ramps.
VDOT's 511 site shows dozens of issues on secondary routes in Southside Virginia due to downed trees, down power lines or flooding. High water will also be an issue today and tomorrow throughout southeastern Virginia, even in places that avoid ice altogether.
🚧Closed due to potential for ice buildup:— City of Richmond, VA (@CityRichmondVA) February 18, 2021
•Westover Hills Blvd @ Riverside Dr
•Park Dr @ Shirley Ln
•E Byrd St @ S 4th St
•N 23rd St @ E Franklin St
•N 23rd St @ E Grace St
•Whitehead Rd @ Greenbank Rd
•Whitehead Rd @ Derwent Rd
•Magnolia & Rady
•2nd Street Connector
The forecast hasn't changed much overnight. Central Virginia could see multiple waves of freezing rain over the next 24 hours, then icy conditions that could last well into Friday.
Temperatures are below 32 degrees throughout the entire region this morning, with above-freezing air confined to areas east of Williamsburg and Wakefield. By afternoon, that "warmer" air could make some progress to the west and curtail the freezing rain for places between Prince George County, West Point and Heathsville. But metro Richmond should expect to stay freezing until Friday afternoon.
Read more about the forecast below.
Dominion Energy listed 2,048 customer outages systemwide at 9:30 a.m., with 201 in the Richmond Metro and Tri-Cities region and 1,198 in Southside Virginia.
The Chesterfield County Public Library has designated three libraries as warming and charging stations for residents: Central Library (7051 Lucy Corr Boulevard), Ettrick-Matoaca Library (4501 River Road) and North Courthouse Road Library (325 Courthouse Road) will be open today from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Residents are encouraged to call the library at (804) 751-2275 before driving to one of the libraries serving as warming stations. All other libraries are closed to the public today. Those who visit the warming stations are expected to wear face coverings and to follow health department recommendations including conducting self-health checks, maintaining social distancing and washing hands frequently.
The National Weather Service is warning of Thursday's ice storm in very strong terms.
"A crippling ice accumulation is expected across the hardest hit areas from the previous system," according to a statement sent out by the forecasters on Wednesday morning.
"New ice accumulation in combination with damage caused by the previous system will make for a very dangerous situation!"
And the forecast hasn't changed for the better. Wednesday's data continues to point toward a disruptive and dangerous situation throughout the region.