Local News

Ice, wind down trees across area; thousands without power

Posted March 7

— A winter storm felled dozens of trees and snapped power lines in the western part of the Triangle early Friday, knocking out power for thousands and creating travel headaches around the area.

Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency following the storm, allowing a faster response for those in need. He said more than 460,000 outages were reported across the state. Alamance, Person, Orange, Guilford, Randolph and Davidson counties were the hardest hit.

“While we have become very experienced in winter storm response during the past two months, each storm is different and can require different resources,” he said in a statement. “Today, we’re seeing more power outages than we had during any of the previous storms this year, and we need to do all that we can as quickly as we can to help those in need.”

Freezing rain and sleet fell in many parts of Durham, Orange and Person counties overnight and during the early-morning hours. By 7 a.m., dozens of roads and parts of Interstate 85 near Hillsborough were blocked.

In Orange County, where nearly 50,000 Duke Energy customers were without power at one point, the American Red Cross planned to open a shelter at Stanford Middle School in Hillsborough.

Duke Energy officials said crews from areas of the state not impacted by winter weather were being dispatched to spots with the most outages. The utility posted on Twitter that about 1,000 additional workers were called in to help.

"We'd like to thank our customers in advance for their patience as we work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power," Jeff Corbett, senior vice president of Duke Energy's Carolinas Delivery Operations, said in a statement.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation was employing a similar strategy, sending crews from Wake County and other areas minimally hit by the storm to places with more damage. Crews were clearing several inches of slush and trees from roads in the hardest hit counties.

In Orange and Alamance counties, two-person crews from the North Carolina Forest Service worked to cut and clear trees. Ten crews will be back at work Saturday, a spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Orange County said crews were clearing roads as quickly as possible. About 80 trees were down in the county, including one that briefly blocked U.S. Highway 70 prior to 6 a.m. A utility pole snapped on Avondale Road in Durham shortly after.

The right lane of Interstate 85 North was blocked temporarily near Buckhorn Road due to a downed tree, and another tree fell onto Cole Mill Road in Durham, blocking travel lanes.

The Durham County Sheriff's Office responded to more than 65 reports of downed trees between midnight and noon, officials said.

In other areas that saw mostly rain from the slow-moving low pressure system, standing water was an issue during the morning commute.

Several commuter trains were also delayed or canceled due to downed trees on tracks. The Piedmont No. 73 train left Raleigh at 6:45 a.m., but had to return to the station and was canceled, officials said.

The winter weather prompted numerous school closings and delays Friday. Durham, Orange, Granville, Person, Vance and Mecklenburg County, Va. schools closed for the day. Warren County public schools started two hours late, and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools began dismissing early because several facilities had no electricity, officials said.

At Elon University in Alamance County, a large tree fell onto a campus building, causing significant damage.

The heavy rains and power outages caused another problem: sewer overflows. State officials said the overflows were being reported in towns and cities from Wilmington to Asheville.

Overflows happen when significant rainwater enters the sanitary sewers, overwhelming the system. As a result, untreated sewage is discharged into waterways.

The state cautioned residents to "limit direct contact" with rivers, creeks and other surface waters.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services activated its toll-free hotline to help farmers affected by the winter storm. Farmers who have an agricultural emergency can call 1-866-506-6222. The hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day through Monday.
 

20 Comments

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  • HeadsUp Mar 10, 10:58 a.m.

    So, so, so sorry to all the NWS apologists, but I do watch the wx news closely and did not see... View More

    — Posted by HeadsUp

    I'm thinking you aren't paying attention. I left work at 10 AM that morning because they said... View More

    — Posted by rescuefan

    Rescuefan, I wish you were right.

    As the storm approached, the NWS based in Raleigh warned the public that driving could become trecherous about the time of the evening commute, not lunchtime:

    “We’re going to have some sleet mixed in there about rush-hour time," said Shawna Cokley, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Raleigh. "The worst of it is going to be Wednesday night. If you are able to stay off the roads, I would do that. I would wrap up anything I had to do Wednesday by 6 p.m., 8 p.m. at the latest.”

    Many of us in the Triangle heard that forecast, believed it, and acted on it -- which is why tens of thousands of people were caught by surprise when the roads iced over shortly after noon.

  • luvstoQ Mar 7, 6:28 p.m.

    Just be thankful it was mostly 'rain' and not 'ice'!!! We have had 2" already, with lots of wind. I'm just glad to be down south and not north and mid west where they've had so much cold, ice and snow to deal with.

  • jmc3 Mar 7, 6:16 p.m.

    We live in northwest Durham near the Orange County line. Our power went out sometime in the middle of the night. By 10am this morning, Duke Power and Pike crews were already out in the pouring rain and wind working on the lines. We were fortunate enough to have power back around noon. I've got lots of limbs to clean up, but otherwise I have no complaints. We were lucky!

  • rescuefan Mar 7, 6:09 p.m.

    So, so, so sorry to all the NWS apologists, but I do watch the wx news closely and did not see... View More

    — Posted by HeadsUp

    I'm thinking you aren't paying attention. I left work at 10 AM that morning because they said the snow would hit at noon time and would be sticking right away because it had been so cold for several days prior. They NEVER indicated that anyone would be able to go out between 6-8 PM. They said the roads would get bad as soon as the snow started falling.

    The NWS has no clue how many people will lose power, they only know how much ice may accumulate, which they stated yesterday in their winter storm warning that went out. The number of people without power correlates with how many trees come down, which correlates with how much ice accumulates, which depends on the temperature and amount of moisture that falls.

  • HeadsUp Mar 7, 5:52 p.m.

    So, so, so sorry to all the NWS apologists, but I do watch the wx news closely and did not see any warning yesterday that today's storm would knock out power to half a million North Carolinians or lead to a state of emergency. If you have it, please share it.

    Just like a few weeks ago, when the NWS said some snow would begin falling after noon, and the ICE from Snowmageddon would start about the time of the evening rush hour, and to get all my errands run before 6 to 8 p.m., I had no idea that actually meant that the entire region would be iced-over and gridlocked at 1 p.m. Silly me.

    I guess a million other people and I are just not paying enough attention.

  • Obamacare rises again Mar 7, 4:55 p.m.

    All I am seeing is complaints! not realizing there at over 10,000 workers out there trying to... View More

    — Posted by brandon96

    How do you bold words like that? Curious.

  • brandon96 Mar 7, 4:19 p.m.

    All I am seeing is complaints! not realizing there at over 10,000 workers out there trying to get YOUR power back on! Risking there lives, and all they will get in return is a complaint of how long it's taking! And there were plenty of WARNINGS of this severe weather! It was your choice not to watch the news and see the pattern of the storm! I'm very disappointed in every negative comment! Unless your out there helping don't say anything but THANK YOU!

  • LovemyPirates Mar 7, 4:18 p.m.

    jmcdow - Really? So, you want to use the Russians who have a deplorable track record on poisoning its environment and citizens as who we should model ourselves after. Interesting........

  • dcatz Mar 7, 4:13 p.m.

    Looks like the NWS botched yet another storm forecast. No advance warning of a crippling ice... View More

    — Posted by HeadsUp

    They forecasted up to .3 inch of ice for Orange County and that was there as early as yesterday afternoon.

    Perhaps you should read the AFDs :
    http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=NWS&issuedby=RAH&product=AFD&format=CI&version=1&glossary=0&highlight=off

  • ckmjr Mar 7, 3:59 p.m.

    Looks like the NWS botched yet another storm forecast. No advance warning of a crippling ice... View More

    You're right. A better forecast would have kept those trees from falling and the ice from forming.

    As we've seen recently, even when ice is forecasted, it still doesn't register with some folks that driving on it is hazardous or that some trees / branches may fall under the weight.

    A forecast is just that...a forecast. It's a prediction. They use current and historical conditions to make an educated guess. No one to my knowledge, not even seasoned meteorologists, can predict weather with 100% accuracy 100% the time.

    Meteorology is a very technology-driven science. When their budget is cut, as it has been recently by Congress, the NWS cannot buy or maintain existing equipment or invest in currently available, better forecast technology. Not to mention, the folks working there are likely working longer hours for less money.

    Hindsight is 20/20.

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