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Gov. Warns That Snow Storms Eating Into Budget

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By BOB LEWISAP Political Writer

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Virginia has already used up its yearly allocation for snow plowing and removal, forcing the state to dip into already depleted transportation funds to tackle this weekend's winter storms.

"Now, it's just one more bill to be added to our budget challenges already before us," Gov. Bob McDonnell said.

The heaviest winter storm season in decades has already pushed Virginia's spending for clearing and salting roads well past $100 million, McDonnell said. The state normally sets aside $70 million to $80 million to cope with winter storms.

Even so, money will be moved from maintenance and repair accounts to clear highways and keep police on the job, McDonnell said. And with still more foul winter weather expected, it will deepen the budget hole Virginia already faces.

Just three weeks into his term, the governor on Wednesday declared a weather emergency for the second time to put state transportation, police and emergency personnel on alert for the winter storm.

His predecessor, Tim Kaine, did the same thing for a heavy mid-December winter storm.

Up to 30 inches of snow through Saturday are forecast for northern and western portions of Virginia, including the suburbs of Washington, D.C., the state's most populous region.

"Under the best of circumstances, it's going to be a tough go," McDonnell said, urging Virginians to hunker down at home and stay off the roads. "This is a very dangerous storm and it's going to get much worse tomorrow."

What's worse, the snowfall from the past two weeks in western Virginia now presents a threat for serious flooding in a week to 10 days when snow melt in the state's mountains sends runoff into creeks and rivers, McDonnell said in an interview.

Weather dominated McDonnell's day Friday. He even took a turn explaining the meteorological phenomena responsible for the storm in a live morning Weather Channel appearance.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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