Late-season snow takes out power

Westbound traffic on U.S. 211 at Mount Salem Avenue was being rerouted through town Thursday afternoon after the top of a pine tree apparently blew onto power lines and was hanging directly over the highway.
Westbound traffic on U.S. 211 at Mount Salem Avenue was being rerouted through town Thursday afternoon after the top of a pine tree apparently blew onto power lines and was hanging directly over the highway.

It was a heavy, wet snow and it took down trees, limbs and power lines.

Apparently the storm that brought up a foot of snow and strong gusting winds Tuesday night and Wednesday turned off more than two-thirds of Rappahannock County’s power connections.

Although at 6 p.m. Wednesday Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) reported 1,700 homes without power in the county — down from about 2,500 at midday — by 10:30 p.m. Wednesday REC’s website outage tally was showing more than 3,000 without power in the county. By 2 p.m. Thursday, the outage tally had dropped to 2,400.

REC has about 4,800 hookups in the county.

REC spokesperson Ann Lewis said the tally likely went up because of Wednesday’s windy conditions and additional customers reporting outages throughout the day.

Friday update

From an REC dispatch to local governments at 6:30 a.m. today: As of 6:30 a.m. approximately 25,230 Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) consumers remain without electricity as a result of Wednesday’s winter storm. Crews continue to discover broken poles, often in areas that are difficult to access even with specialized, off-road equipment. Additional help from out-of-state and less affected areas of Virginia arrived throughout Thursday. One of the largest workforces ever assembled by REC is working around the clock to make repairs at the more than 1500 remaining damage locations. REC’s goal is to have nearly all service restored by Sunday evening. At the peak of the storm, which brought up to 18 inches of heavy wet snow and winds in excess of 45 mph, nearly 70,000 were off. Outages occurred across all of REC’s 22-county service area.

Most areas of the county saw between 8 and 12 inches of snow.

Rappahannock County government offices and schools were closed Wednesday, and the school division announced Wednesday that schools would remain closed Thursday due to power outages.

Most secondary roads in the county had seen at least one plow by late afternoon, and VDOT was reporting U.S. 211 and 522 to be in “minor” condition, which is VDOT-speak for clear but slick in spots. It issued warnings to drivers to be cautious of slush and wet areas on the roads, which would likely re-freeze overnight Wednesday.

A late afternoon update from REC reported that the utility had about 51,600 outages across its 22-county service territory with the most significant impact in the counties of Culpeper, Madison, Greene, Orange, Louisa, Spotsylvania and Fauquier. At one point early Wednesday, it appeared that 90 percent of REC’s 11,400 customers in Culpeper County were without power.

REC advised that this will be “a multi-day event, and members should expect that complete service restoration may take several days.” REC’s announcement said the cooperative had crews from Georgia and Kentucky ready to help restore operations before the storm hit central Virginia late Tuesday.

The Red Cross regional office in Roanoke announced Wednesday afternoon that it had opened four shelters; the closest to Rappahannock is at the Salem Volunteer Fire Department (13428 Scotts Mill Rd., Culpeper).

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Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 537 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.