NAGS HEAD, N.C. — Frigid weather and snow shocked North Carolinians from the mountains to the coast Monday, bringing a rare and early white Christmas to Manteo, Nags Head and other coastal towns.
Black ice surprised drivers all over Nash, Edgecombe, Halifax and Wilson counties, where the state Highway Patrol responded to more than 260 weather-related wrecks.
The Highway Patrol said 95 percent of its troubles were on Interstate 95 near Rocky Mount, where they said lots of drivers made lots of bad decisions.
"People just don't realize that you can't go the speed limit over the ice. You've got to go under the speed limit and you shouldn't travel the roads on ice unless it's absolutely necessary," said Trooper Daniel Bass of the state Highway Patrol.
Most of the wrecks involved a single vehicle and no major injuries were reported. The state Department of Transportation says it will re-treat many sections of I-95 in Nash County with sand and salt to prepare for Monday night.
While temperatures struggled to reach the freezing mark statewide by afternoon, forecasters said temperatures could be in the 50s and 60s by the end of the week. Record lows were reached in Greensboro, 9 degrees, and Asheville, 7 degrees.
"They don't usually get too much snow on the Outer Banks," said National Weather Service meteorologist John Elardo in Newport at midday. "We're 22 (degrees) trying to hit 23, so that's the type of day it's been."
North Carolina's mountain residents usually expect snow, and already have had a couple of storms. Snow that began Sunday night piled up as much as 7 inches in some higher elevations and closed schools in several counties.
But the snow along the coast and coastal plain was more surprising.
Mary Ann Newman, a manager at Kelly's restaurant in Nags Head, said she brushed what looked like 2 inches of snow off her car before heading to work.
"It's really cold and windy," Newsome said.
Currituck and Camden counties each had about 2 inches of snow and other counties to the west of the coast had about an inch, said meteorologist Rick Curry in the Wakefield, Va., office. Temperatures were in the 20s, about half the usual average of 40, he said.
Roads from Jacksonville to Scotland Neck were slick with varying depths of snow, ranging up to 6 inches or more in some places.
"Basically, it was a dry snow and it's become ground into the road. I saw several cars in ditches and the roads are very slippery," Elardo said.
"The amounts were a little higher than we thought. A lot of the data we were looking at, there wasn't a lot of moisture indicated. It produced a little more moisture than we anticipated."
Conditions were expected to be warmer Tuesday, near 50, and melt snow that remained on eastern North Carolina roads. Temperatures in the 60s might arrive by the end of the week.
Slick mountain roads caused dozens of traffic accidents, especially in areas that had the most snow and some ice. Troopers reported dozens of wrecks by 8 p.m. Tuesday in Haywood and Buncombe counties, but only four in Henderson County.
A Florida native who hadn't seen snow tried to catch snowflakes with her tongue.
"Is this snow?" asked Kristine Reina, 18, as she burst through the doors of a Hendersonville mall.
Other mountain residents weren't so excited.
"To me, this was a nuisance," said Paul Speranza. "This was kind of a disappointment. But winter's just getting here, so we're going to have plenty to speak about before it's all said and done."