Warm weather might have melted most of the snow on the ground, but it hasn’t calmed down those who drove in Sunday’s snowstorm.
The region saw upward of seven inches of snow, but the biggest issues occurred on the roads, where there were a reported 881 accidents and 456 disabled vehicles in Virginia — including a tractor-trailer accident that closed down a lane on I-81 for several hours.
Leading up to the storm, roads were not pretreated with chemicals, which some point to as the reason for road conditions.
“We knew this storm was coming, and I feel like if they took precautionary measures, it wouldn’t have taken them that long to clear the roads,” said Libby Bish, a senior marketing major. “I definitely think they did not plan ahead.”
Bish was driving back to Blacksburg from Gatlinburg, Tenn., which is normally a three-hour drive. However, due to the conditions, the drive took 11 hours.
“We passed one tractor-trailer accident where a truck was literally parallel over the median,” Bish said. “But we kept driving — it was only a 20-minute back up — and then we came to a complete stop. We were low on gas, so we turned off our car because we didn’t think it would be that long, but it ended up being five and a half hours with our car off.”
Bish also said in that time waiting, she saw one plow truck, and it was only there for the emergency vehicle.
Jason Bond, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said roads were not pretreated because reports stated the storm was going to start as a rain event, and VDOT does not use chemicals when that’s the case.
Virginia Tech has a similar policy, citing that rain would wash away any prior work done.
“If you pretreat, which we do with salt or some other salt chemical, on the roads, and it’s a rain storm first, you’ve just wasted your money,” said Mark Helms, the Facilities Operations director at Tech.
Because of the unusually temperate winter, VDOT has used little of its $12.3 million budget allocated to snow removal for the Salem, Va. district.
However, the number is an estimate, as snow removal is a small part of VDOT’s overall budget.
“Our overall maintenance budget was $143 million for our district,” Bond said. “We allocate about 10 percent of that to snow removal. It’s not the only budget we have — it’s sort of an earmark of our overall budget.”
“If we were to go over the $12.3 million, we would dip into the other maintenance budget,” he said. “If we are under the $12.3 million, then we would roll that money back into the maintenance budget.”
Tech, on the other hand, doesn’t have a budget specifically allocated to clearing out snow.
“We really have to adapt, so this winter has really been good for us,” Helms said. “If it’s a bad winter, it makes it very difficult on us.”
VDOT uses an independent contractor for snow removal, so how much Sunday’s work will cost the state is unknown. However, Helms said it cost Tech $7,500 to $10,000.