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Surprise snowstorm leads to 67 wrecks

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The forecast called for rain, but heavy snow fell April 4, causing dozens of accidents.

By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff

Local police officers were busy on the roads during the surprise snow storm that shocked the Twin Counties last Thursday afternoon.
No one saw it coming, not even meteorologists, and no one was prepared to drive on the slick, slushy roads on April 4.
According to every forecast, the worst everyone was expecting was a little rain, maybe some sleet.
Thankfully, after dealing with the aftermath of Easter weekend’s deadly series of wrecks on Interstate 77, most of what police dealt with on Thursday was relatively minor.
According to Galax Police Chief Rick Clark, a total of 67 motor vehicle crashes were reported during the storm. “We were busy across both counties and the city. The bulk here was people sliding into the ditches,” Clark said.
Calls started coming in for Galax around 1:30 p.m. and the volume significantly dropped off after 6 p.m.
Sgt. Scott Todd of the Virginia State Police reported similar incidents — mostly cars in the ditch — during his shift on Thursday. “I was helping out in Grayson wrecks. We got the first snow wreck on Troutdale around 2 p.m. and then it finally slowed down around 8 p.m.,” he said.
While he was unsure of the exact number, Todd told the Gazette that he remembered three people being sent to the hospital.
However, though the number of calls was high, the number of injuries was low. And the number of serious injuries or fatalities were nonexistent.
“It happened at a bad time. School was letting out and we were concerned about buses. It was nasty for a while,” Clark said.
To keep as many children off the road as possible, many Galax students who lived close enough were walked home by school staff.
The surprise snowstorm snuck up on the Twin Counties, and extended across Southwest Virginia and more severely affected areas of the New River Valley.
 The Virginia Department of Transportation stated in a news release that VDOT crews worked in those areas overnight to plow and treat roads for safe travel.
What originally was predicted as mostly rain with some sleet mixed in quickly turned into a snow and sleet, taking everyone back in time to the months of January and February.
According to a report from WDBJ-7, after the snowfall proved their past weather reporting as false, they looked into what went wrong. One of the more obvious explanations, they said, was a process called “evaporational cooling,” which kept snow flakes frozen until they hit the ground.
The original forecast called for rain because meteorologists were expecting warmer air coming from the storm to melt the snow.
This did happen, but only after several inches of snow had already fallen.
According to records, the last snowfall in April that went over one inch in Roanoke was in 1992.