RICHMOND, Va. -- Officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) are urging folks to continue to stay off the roads and warning that it will take days to get back to normal after an ice storm downed trees and knocked out power to more than 150,000 across the Commonwealth.
"Although the ultimate goal is to reopen roads as quickly as possible, the reality is that recovery work will be long term and multi-phased," VDOT officials said. "The Richmond region was hit hardest, with thousands of trees blocking travel lanes and more falling each minute due to heavy ice accumulation on branches."
As a result, officials urged drivers to stay home as "trees continue falling, particularly on the Interstate 85 corridor."
"Downed trees and power lines impacted interstates 85 and 95 overnight, and continue to cause hazards," officials said. "The ground is saturated from excess precipitation and heavy ice remains on branches throughout the district. With these elements combined, more falling trees are expected."
VDOT officials said crews are prioritizing essential travel routes, including major primary routes and secondary routes that link drivers to emergency services. Once those are finished, crews will shift to "lower volume routes."
“The highest priority is the safety of our employees and drivers,” said VDOT Richmond District Maintenance Engineer Sean Nelson, P.E. “If they can safely do so, crews are beginning to cut fallen trees and relocate them to the shoulders. In many cases, trees are falling at too fast a pace to allow safe access for crews. Once trees are cut and moved out of travel lanes, we can focus on removing tree debris from the roadsides.”
Crews are assessing roads in the 14-county Richmond District and "making plans to remove trees from travel lanes in the weeks ahead."
"VDOT is working closely with emergency service and utility providers to maintain access to life-saving resources and safely remove power lines from the roads," officials said. "It is crucial to remember that any fallen utility lines may still be energized, and to avoid touching them or attempting to move any tree debris near them."
If you spot a road hazard, call calling VDOT’s Customer Service Center at 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623) or visit https://my.vdot.virginia.gov