More familiar with hurricanes, Virginia coast gets blizzard

AP News
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Posted: Jan 04, 2018 2:33 PM
More familiar with hurricanes, Virginia coast gets blizzard

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Virginia got socked Thursday by a powerful winter blast of snow and cold that's seldom seen along its coast, with tens of thousands of residents losing power, more than 100 drivers stalling or crashing on roads and at least one man strapping on skis to get bagels for his family.

Perhaps the only pleasant aspect of the weather was its relative warmth — the low was forecast at 10 degrees (-12 Celsius) — compared with what's to come. The temperature is expected to fall to a low of 4 degrees (-16 Celsius) Saturday, keeping 5 to 8 inches (13 to 20 centimeters) of snow on the ground for days.

The pummeling was still more welcome than a hurricane, at least to some.

"If this were a hurricane, my hair would be turning gray," said Greg Peterman, 44, the owner of Yorgo's Bageldashery in Norfolk, a low-lying city that's particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise.

Standing in his then-empty but open restaurant, Peterman said his last home was flooded twice during hurricanes. He stacked sandbags and stressed out about flood insurance.

"This is more workable," he said after driving to work in his SUV. "I'm more thinking about going home and playing with my child and my dog."

The snow failed to faze Mark Schoenenberger, 45, a NASA engineer who strapped cross-country skis to buy a sack of bagels for his family.

"It's like 'Yay, I get to go out,'" he said.

Still, the storm placed much of the region into what's likely to be a dayslong stranglehold, closing schools, government offices and businesses that include large military contractors.

Dominion Energy said about 45,000 people lost power during the storm. Nearly all flights were canceled at Norfolk International Airport. Cars skidded off the road and became immobile.

Jonathan Rogers, 30, and his brother, Jason Mitchell, 35, got stuck about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from their Norfolk home after working overnight at a local hospital.

Mitchell, a cook, said they were prepared for a 30-minute walk. But he said his girlfriend insisted they drive.

They got stuck at least twice in a Hyundai Accent, including just feet from some often-used train tracks.

"I knew this would happen," Mitchell said.

The U.S. Navy required only "mission essential" personnel in the region to report for duty, including those at the world's largest naval base in Norfolk.

Among them was Thomas Carrico, 25, who serves on the USS Vella Gulf, a guided missile cruiser.

The ship gets hot when it sails into the Middle East, he said, and equally cold in winter weather.

"It's like a giant cooler because it's all metal," he said with a shrug. "You give and you take."