DOT preps for second round of snow; roads slushy
Posted February 12, 2014
Updated February 13, 2014
UPDATE: 1:30 p.m.: Snow covering Interstate 40 in Durham as system continues to move across central North Carolina.
UPDATE 12:30 a.m.: Heavy snow is seen on traffic cameras along Interstate 85 in Orange County, and the road is quickly becoming covered. The system will continue to move east into the Triangle during the afternoon.
UPDATE: 12:10 p.m.: DOT officials say they have no plans to clear secondary roads Thursday, saying another round of snow in the afternoon mean they have to start from scratch plowing interstates, U.S. highways and other major thoroughfares. There was no word on when crews might begin work on secondary roads.
UPDATE: 11:40 a.m.: Cary officials say road crews are starting to get into neighborhoods to clear snow and ice while still working on troublesome intersections and turn lanes. Plows and trucks carrying 400 tons of salt and 700 tons of salt-sand mix will be deployed to key areas across the town to handle the second round of snow Thursday afternoon.
Emergency crews responded to 69 crashes and assisted 70 stuck or stranded vehicles since Wednesday afternoon.
UPDATE: 10:50 a.m.: Gov.. Pat McCrory just finished his news conference updating storm situation. The state Department of Transportation has spread more than 21,000 tons of salt on North Carolina highways in the last 24 hours, along with 6,300 tons of salt-sand mix. DOT Secretary Tony Tata said crews are being positioned in the Triangle to help clear roads as a second round of snow falls Thursday. Crews are rotating through to ensure everyone gets enough rest amid the plowing, salting and sanding, he said
“As snow and ice blanketed almost our entire state yesterday, the threat of dangerous road conditions and power outages remains today,” McCrory said. “Another round of wintry weather is expected this afternoon. It is important to stay off the roads so our first responders can address the safety concerns of our citizens and clear the roads."
State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said North Carolina is handling storm response on its own and hasn't requested any federal disaster declaration. If officials determine, while assessing damage, that federal assistance is needed, they will request such aid, he said.
UPDATE: 10:00 a.m.: Road remain slushy across much of the Triangle, although no major issues were being reported on the interstates or roads.
Intersections on primary and secondary roads could be especially tricky to navigate throughout the day, WRAL traffic reporter Brian Shrader said.
Another round of snow, which is expected to arrive in the Triangle after lunchtime, could also make conditions worse during the afternoon and evening. Another 2 to 3 inches of snow is possible in Wake County and surrounding areas, and spots closer to the Virginia border could end up with 4 to 5 additional inches of accumulation.
Department of Transportation crews were continuing to treat and plow primary roads across the area, and crews will transition to secondary roads throughout the day.
UPDATE: 8:15 a.m.: Statistics chronicling the impact of Wednesday's winter weather are starting to emerge. Durham County Sheriff's Office officials said they have more than 100 abandoned vehicles to handle, and deputies responded to more than 50 wrecks between noon Wednesday and 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
Durham County officials have not yet towed abandoned cars, but officials said DOT crews may have moved or towed cars in order to allow plows to clear highways and primary roads.
In Raleigh, city officials are still urging residents to stay off the roads if possible. Main roads are slushy. Crews salted and plowed many priority one and two streets in Raleigh overnight, and they will be hitting priority three roads on Thursday, officials said.
UPDATE: 7:20 a.m.: Crews at Raleigh-Durham International Airport have been working overnight to clear both runways, but many of the morning flights have been canceled.
The first commercial flight is scheduled to depart at 11 a.m., but many airlines will not resume their scheduled until Thursday afternoon.
JetBlue, Air Canada Jazz and United Airlines have canceled all flights scheduled for Thursday, officials said. Travelers are urged to contact their airline over the next two days to learn more about the status of flights.
UPDATE: 6:45 a.m.: Officials with Wake County emergency services were checking abandoned cars on area streets to make sure they weren't occupied before tow trucks removed them.
UPDATE: 6:30 a.m.: Department of Transportation officials are urging residents to stay off the roads early Thursday to allow crews to continue to treat roads.
"The roads are safer than they were on Wednesday, but we're asking everyone to say home," Wake County DOT engineer Britt McCurry said. "Stay out of the way, and let us finish what we need to do."
Once primary roads and interstates are clear, DOT crews will begin clearing secondary roads around the area.
State Department of Transportation crews and local law enforcement agencies were out in force early Thursday working to clear Triangle roads of ice and snow and abandoned cars left by drivers when the bulk of a massive winter storm roared through the area.
Hundreds of abandoned cars were towed overnight at the request of DOT officials, Highway Patrol officials said.
Wintry precipitation was slowly coming to an end across the Triangle at 4:30 a.m., a positive sign for those crews that will be working to clear roads during the morning hours.
Most interstates, U.S. highways and primary roads were wet and slushy in spots, but no major problems were being reported early Thursday, WRAL traffic reporter Brian Shrader said.
"Intersections could be tricky this morning, and they will definitely continue to be slushy," he said. "But the brine and early work by plows has done a good job with the interstates and major roads."
Still, officials across the Triangle were urging people to stay off the roads if possible.
Another round of snow during the lunchtime hours could create more hazardous conditions during the afternoon, and overnight lows in the upper 20s to near 30 degrees will allow the liquid left on the roads to re-freeze.
Wednesday's blanket of snow, followed by ice and freezing rain, left roads slick and coated, but, with most businesses and schools closed for the day, any traffic will be devoted to clearing major routes.
"We hope to clean all interstate routes, but we don't know exactly a time period," said Jason Holmes, an engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation. "A lot of it will depend on how easily we can move the material."
That "material" is snow covered with a glistening icy shell in many places.
The DOT had 100 pieces of equipment, including 70 snow plows, on the roads in the Triangle through the night. Trucks were spreading either ice-melting salt or a traction-increasing mix of salt and sand, Holmes said.
The City of Raleigh had 24 plows working the streets of the Capital City, and workers were on duty through the night to clear sidewalks and parking decks in heavily traveled areas.
The National Guard was traveling interstates in Wake County Wednesday night to check on abandoned vehicles and offer rides to any drivers still on the roads. They were taking stranded drivers to shelters in Apex, Garner and Knightdale, where churches offered a warm place to stay the night.
DOT plowing priorities
The DOT has a set process for snow removal:
- Interstates, four-lane divided highways and "other routes essential to moving traffic" are treated first
- Secondary roads and neighborhoods are treated next
The DOT determines its priority order by:
- Connectivity – how many other roads the road serves
- Traffic volume, amount of use
- Major business avenues and trucking routes
- Importance to hospitals and other emergency routes