Year of crazy weather brings autumn snow, ice to Rappahannock

‘As fast as repairs were made, new outages occurred due to ice-laden trees’

An unusual early-season snow and ice storm that arrived in Rappahannock one week before Thanksgiving — and 36 days before the official start of winter — closed schools for two days, caused several fender benders, and resulted in significant interruptions of electrical, phone and internet service.

A solid sheet of ice and snow seen here Friday morning on Skyline Drive shut down the popular roadway from Wednesday night through the weekend. Numerous ice encrusted trees and limbs from Thursday’s Nor’easter toppled onto power lines, causing outages. By John McCaslin
By John McCaslin

Two days after the November Nor’easter blew into the county there were still pockets of power outages, mostly caused by ice encrusted trees and limbs crashing down onto electrical wires from Chester Gap to south of Sperryville.

John Arp, manager of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s western region, said “as fast as repairs were made, new outages occurred due to ice-laden trees falling onto power lines.” He said snow and ice this early in the season “is particularly damaging because leaves are still on many of the trees.”

REC crews battled not only gusty winds at times, but saturated soil they said made it difficult to reach some outage locations. On Saturday afternoon an unpassable Red Oak Mountain Road in Woodville reopened after an army of REC crews replaced a power pole toppled by a large white pine that couldn’t withstand the weight of the ice.

The entire length of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park was closed from Wednesday night through the entire weekend by several inches of snow and ice that was so hard-packed the blades of three snowplows caravanning south from Thornton Gap on Friday couldn’t put a dent in it.

Plowing Sperryville Pike, a snowplow reaches Woodville during the height of the autumn snow and ice storm last Thursday. By John McCaslin

Ice coated tree limbs, shimmering in bright sunshine after the storm passed, snapped like toothpicks above and below the scenic drive. Other trees fell onto Skyline Drive itself and had to be removed by park crews, illuminated at times by headlights, before plows could get to work.

VDOT crews worked to clear major roadways in Rappahannock during the height of the unpredictable storm, which transitioned between snow, sleet and freezing rain. Highways 522 and 211 were pre-treated by VDOT on Wednesday in advance of the building Nor’easter, which dumped snow as far south as Mississippi. But even roads treated with the brine solution saw snow and ice stick during the gnarly storm.

There were few tourists in Rappahannock last Thursday, and those who were here likely weren’t visiting any Civil War landmarks given the snow and ice. By John McCaslin

A Sperryville business owner said it took him six hours to drive home from a Thursday meeting in Washington, D.C., because of storm related congestion on I-66.

A dispatcher at the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office said “minor” vehicle accidents occurred during the storm, resulting in no injuries.

Near-record precipitation has fallen in Rappahannock County so far in 2018, and the trend is expected to continue into winter, which won’t officially arrive until Dec. 21 when the sun’s path reaches its southernmost position resulting in the fewest hours of sunlight.

Saturday’s free “Turkey Trot Family Fun Run” was postponed because of the weather and will now be held on Thanksgiving Day morning at 9 a.m. at the Rappahannock County High School Track, sponsored by Commit to Be Fit. It features a one-mile run for all age groups, a children’s 1/2 mile, games and activities, and a Thanksgiving-themed costume contest for adults, teens, and kids.

About John McCaslin 415 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at