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Today could bring first significant snowfall of the year
By PAMELA GOULD
Was it the calm before the storm? Ignorance of the forecast? Or maybe a new attitude emerging in the Fredericksburg region?
Whatever the reason, people weren't racing down grocery aisles Wednesday afternoon scooping up milk, bread and other staples in anticipation of today's predicted snowfall.
The National Weather Service forecast 4 to 8 inches of snow for the Fredericksburg region today, with some accumulation by 1 p.m. and picking up through the afternoon and evening.
Orange County and localities closer to Charlottesville could get a heavier accumulation, the Weather Service said.
But other forecasters predicted lesser accumulations for the Fredericksburg region. AccuWeather was calling for 2 to 4 inches of snow this evening. The Weather Channel predicted 1 to 3 inches.
Though the storm was expected to continue late into tonight, Friday is expected to bring sunshine and a high of 38, making it the first dry day of the week.
Many fredericksburg.com readers on Wednesday were hopeful of the first appreciable snowfall, but some remained skeptical.
Optimists are eager to get outdoors to use the sleds received at Christmas, to build the season's first snowmen, and to hurl the first snowballs of 2013.
Others hope for a quiet day inside to snuggle with spouses and pets, sip hot cocoa and savor the winter scene without the chill.
Pessimists said they'll believe the predictions when the snow materializes.
The few people who were heading in and out of grocery stores Wednesday afternoon weren't stocking up for a storm.
Liz Moore was exiting the Hilltop Plaza Giant in Spotsylvania County with a few bags of groceries to feed her daughter, who gave birth to a girl on Jan. 9.
Moore lived in the Fredericksburg area for 20 years but moved to Wisconsin six months ago and has gained a new perspective on winter.
"This isn't snow to us," she said. "I already know the difference."
Heather Buchanan of Spotsylvania was headed into the Food Lion on Tidewater Trail on a routine grocery-shopping trip. That didn't mean she wouldn't welcome a snow day.
"I don't get my hopes up," she said. "But I know our drivers do."
Buchanan, who works in Stafford County as a school bus dispatcher, said the bus drivers were starting an enthusiastic online chant.
"They're on Facebook right now [saying], 'Bring it on. Bring it on.'"
Staff reporter Katie Thisdell contributed to this story.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Here are AAA Mid-Atlantic's tips for driving safely in the snow:
Plan ahead, stay informed on weather conditions and take major routes.
Allow extra travel time.
Anticipate danger such as ice on bridges, snow-covered lane markings, stalled cars, poor visibility and drivers inexperienced with bad-weather driving.
Improve visibility by clearing snow and ice from the entire vehicle.
Reduce speed in bad weather. Speed limits are set for ideal road and weather conditions.
Avoid sudden starts, stops and turns. Accelerate carefully so wheels don't spin.
Increase your following distance, preferably building a six-second time gap.
Drive with headlights on low-beam. That provides better road illumination in snow and fog than high-beams.
Apply brakes firmly, just short of lock-up. Use continuous firm braking for anti-lock brakes.
In a skid, ease off the accelerator and steer in the direction you want to go. Straighten the wheel as soon as the car begins moving in the desired direction.
Today's forecast snowfall has the potential to produce the first snow day for area schools.
Spotsylvania and Culpeper county schools could be the exception. Those schools are scheduled for early release today because of exams at the high schools; students could be home before roads become a problem.
Spotsylvania high schools are to dismiss at 11:15 a.m., middle at 11:45, and elementary at 12:30 p.m.
The last Culpeper schools are to dismiss at 1:30 p.m.
Both divisions have a teacher workday scheduled for Friday so students already have it off.
Schools throughout the region are out Monday for the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Federal agencies in the Washington are open today but employees can take unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework, the