Local News

Second Dose Of Winter Weather Expected To Hit Overnight

Posted January 20, 2005

— Most of the hassles prompted by Wednesday's surprise snowfall has melted away, but there may be more winter weather on its way.

Another system is expected to come overnight tonight, bringing anywhere from a trace to up to two inches in northern and central North Carolina. Many school systems in the area have already announced

closings and delays

for Friday.

NCDOT crews are working Wednesday to pre-treat bridges, overpasses and sections of major highways in preparation for the forecasted snow. They are using anti-icing treatments which may include salt brine and calcium chloride. Crews are on standby to plow highways and spread salt and sand.

Motorists are urged to be cautious during the night as previous precipitation may refreeze and create hazardous conditions.

Good Samaritans Help During Winter Storm

The Triangle thawed out Thursday after the unexpected snow storm left the region in traffic gridlock -- stranding thousands of children at schools and hundreds of motorists in their cars overnight.

Clarence Poe Magnet Elementary was one of more than 50 Wake County schools that ended up having students sleep in schools overnight -- a situation that affected more than 3,000 students in the school system.

Buses began running again at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to take the stranded students home. The schools served breakfast to students.

Wake County Schools superintendent Bill McNeal said Wednesday's unexpected snow, massive gridlock and intermittent phone service collided and created ususual confusion.

"I've been here in this district since 1974, and I've never seen this before," he said. "We've been doing early release for ages and this hasn't happened before."

McNeal said teachers and staff went above and beyond staffing mini-shelters for the night, but still, knowing what can happen may lessen any confusion should it happen again.

"Some of the communication is on our end. We need to make sure the parents know exactly where their children are," he said.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker held a

press conference

Thursday to discuss ways to prevent potential problems for the next snow event.

Road Condition Update From N.C. DOT

The Highway Patrol handled more than 1,200 wrecks due to winter weather in the Triangle and beyond. The Raleigh Police Department reported that there were 500 accidents in the city on Wednesday night. The daily average for accidents in Raleigh in 2003 was 46.

Raleigh police worked with the N.C. DMV to locate drivers who abandoned cars. Every attempt will be made to locate owners before towing cars, police said. Cars in the road will be towed first followed by those on the side and in the median. They are willing to give drivers some leeway, but want the cars removed soon.

Enloe H.S. junior Josh Edwards' car broke down after sitting in traffic for three hours. Good Samaritans gave him a lift to a friend's house.

"As soon as I got across the street, a couple from Franklinton in a red 4-wheel drive truck picked me up and took me to the intersections of Falls [of Neuse] and Millbrook," he said.

"The couple that picked him up. That was just incredibly generous because I don't think he could have walked that far," said Joanne Edwards, Josh's mother.

The storm, although it did not dump much snow, caught road crews by surprise and there was no salt on roads when the relatively small amount of snow fell. Cold temperatures contributed to the problem -- with the temperature staying below freezing all day Wedesday.

Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency in Wake County, and shelters were opened at the State Administrative Building at 116 West Jones St. and the Highway Building at South Wilmington Street.

"It's a very unfortunate situation," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said in an interview with WRAL's David Crabtree. "It's been a real nightmare for all of us."

Commuter horror stories

were common, with tales of people taking 5 or 6 hours to drive only a couple of miles. Interstate 40 was hit especially hard heading into Raleigh. In one case, one woman took 14 hours to get home. U.S. 64 was also a parking lot, with many people deciding to stay in hotels -- or sleep in their cars at hotels.

On Capital Boulevard, some motorists slept in their cars after gridlock consumed roads in the area starting around 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Check Road Conditions With Traffic Cams

Viewer Weblog of Travel Woes

"It's terrible. I've lived here all my life and never in my life seen anything like this " said Tim Renfro, who was driving on U.S. 64.

Some of the longest commutes and worst road conditions were reported on I-40, I-440, U.S. 64 East, U.S. 1 North and Durant Road. The snow brought eastbound traffic on Interstate 40 into Raleigh to a standstill and halted travel on the city's I-440 beltline. Cars sliding on snow-covered roads caused accidents around the capital city.

It took Randy McKinion more than 10 hours to get home, so he decided to use the time in a productive way.

"I made it through a whole book on the way home," he said.

WRAL.com received scores of e-mail reports from mothers and fathers whose spouses and children had spent up to 12 hours trying to get home on U.S. 1.

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