NC officials: Thousands without power; roads 'treacherous'
Posted February 26, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Power outages across the state reached a peak of nearly 230,000 as overnight snow transitioned into sleet and rain on Thursday, adding extra weight to trees and power lines.
The outages were most prevalent in areas of central North Carolina, which received up to 7 to 9 inches of snow, Gov. Pat McCrory said.
About 75,400 customers Wake, Durham and Chatham counties were still without electricity as of 4 p.m. – 46,754 in Wake; 21,397 in Durham; and 7,274 in Chatham.
"That is the biggest issue for us right now, especially from Greensboro to the east," McCrory said.
Several neighborhoods in Raleigh were without power, including homes in and around St. Mary's Street and Anderson Drive, where a tree fell – not only knocking out power, but also blocking people from leaving Wilson Lane, a dead-end street.
About 200 families were affected.
"This is pretty unusual," said Charlie Chizmar. "This is the first time we lost it in eight years that I can remember."
In Durham, thousands of residents lost power as well, including students living in four dormitories at North Carolina Central University. Power was restored there by mid-afternoon. Near Duke University, a massive tree fell onto the roof of an apartment on Morreene Road. No one was injured.
The canopy of a closed gas station in Henderson also collapsed under the weight of heavy snow.
Paul Ross, maintenance supervisor for Rose Oil Co., said he has never seen anything like it before.
"These things are built pretty sturdy. They're made to withstands a lot of wind," he said. "That snow must have had a lot of weight to it to do this much damage."
In light of all the problems, the good news, McCrory said, was that there have been no reported storm-related deaths. There had been reports of state troopers helping stranded motorists.
In Orange County, a trooper helped a van of disabled citizens stuck along a highway Thursday morning. Troopers in Cherokee County spotted a woman along a roadway whose infant had stopped breathing. The officers were able to help the child until EMS arrived, and the child is fine.
Traffic-wise, Department of Transportation crews were able to treat interstates and major roads across the state ahead of the snow, and they worked all night clearing roadways. They were still doing so Thursday, Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said, with the help of DOT crews from areas less affected by the storm.
"Travel is treacherous, still, in many, many parts of the state," Tata said. "Please give our crews time and room to do their jobs safely. Safety is our top priority."
About 1,700 DOT employees were on the job Thursday – 1,000 on the roads. About 1,000 trucks, 191 graders and more than 500 contract trucks and graders have been deployed across the state.
Crews used 11,000 tons of salt, 1,700 tons of salt and sand and about 1.6 million gallons of brine solution on roads, Tata said.
"We've got 80,000 miles of roadway that we maintain and clear – about 15 cross-country trips pushing a plow – so, at the end of the day, they're working hard, they've got their routes," Tata said. "They’ve rehearsed their routes. They're executing their routes."
State Highway Patrol Commander Col. William Grey urged drivers to use caution, saying that, although conditions were improving, there are still concerns about refreezing Thursday night.
While temperatures hovered above freezing for most of the day, nighttime temperatures could drop to the low 20s.
"There are lots of accidents, still, when people get comfortable and think everything's OK," McCrory said.
Road conditions were blamed for dozens of wrecks locally – none of which were serious.
Part of Falls of Neuse Road at Millbrook Road in Raleigh was closed in both directions after a crash knocked down power lines. As of Thursday morning, Raleigh police had responded to nearly 60 wrecks.
In Durham, officers had responded to about 30 crashes between 6 p.m. Wednesday and 5 a.m. Thursday. Eight wrecks were reported in Wilson County, most of which were on Interstate 95.