State News

Governor: 1 person dies on icy North Carolina interstate

Posted January 8

— A bitter cold is following the weekend snow and ice storm in North Carolina, where schools, government offices and college campuses are closed because temperatures are too low to help clear the roads.

Temperatures could reach lows not seen since January 1985 when a record cold spread across the state. Because of the cold, 40 additional people sought shelter Saturday at the Durham Rescue Mission, said Rob Tart, the mission's chief operating officer. That's in addition to the 284 men, women and children already staying at the shelter and participating in its programs, such as addiction treatment and vocational training.

"We're reaching out to anybody who needs a place to stay," Tart said Sunday. The beds are full, but the shelter has space on the floor and plenty of blankets, he said.

Gov. Roy Cooper warned people not to be deceived by the sunshine and some clear roads. One person was killed Sunday and two injured when a car skidded off an icy Interstate 73/74 in Montgomery County, he said.

In addition, the state Highway Patrol reported a spike in the number of accident, especially in the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, he said. "I think a lot of people are seeing the sun, are seeing some photographs of many of the interstates that are open and are feeling more confident about getting out on the roads," he said. "I will tell you the sun has melted a little bit of the ice today, but the temperatures are remaining below freezing. It's going to refreeze tonight. There will be black ice on the highway. Do not risk driving unless it is necessary."

Many public school systems across the state are closed or opening late Monday, and North Carolina State University canceled classes for the day.

The National Weather Service tweeted a list of low temperatures Sunday that ranged from 3 degrees in Roxboro to 17 degrees in Fayetteville. Temperatures were expected to be even lower Monday when the lows could be zero or below in places as far east as the Triad area of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point.

The last time Greensboro hit zero degrees was on Jan. 19, 1994. The city has hit zero or below only 14 times since 1903, when weather record-keeping began. The lowest temperature ever in Greensboro was 8 degrees below zero on Jan. 21, 1985. The state's record low of minus 34 was set that day on Mount Mitchell.

Power outages dropped during the day Sunday, with Cooper reporting 2,640 customers without electricity as of late Sunday afternoon.

Snow totals included 12.5 inches on Mount Mitchell, with double digits also reported farther east in Guilford County, where 11 inches of snow fell.

In western North Carolina, rescuers found two hikers missing for more than a day without food and water and only a small fire for warmth. The North Carolina Emergency Response Team said in a news release that a helicopter using a tool that can detect heat found the hikers around 5 p.m. Saturday in the Shining Rock Wilderness area about 25 miles southwest of Asheville.

Authorities said the hikers had called 911 on Friday and again Saturday morning, saying their situation was getting dire. But the helicopter couldn't fly until the storm that dumped about 7 inches of snow in the area cleared.

It took rescuers about two hours to get to the men, who the governor said suffered from hypothermia.

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Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc

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