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Snow/Ice Mix Looms; Several Schools Closed

Posted January 31, 2007
Updated February 1, 2007

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— State and local transportation officials and several school districts girded Wednesday evening for the too-familiar kind of North Carolina winter storm that could foul roads with ice Thursday , even if its precipitation follows predictions and changes to rain by late afternoon.

Schools in Wake, Durham, Orange County, Chatham, Caswell, Vance, Person and Granville counties and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools had closed for Thursday. Johnston, Vance and Franklin counties had called two-hour delays, and Harnett County set a 10 a.m. opening. A number of local businesses also reported closings and delays. Up-to-the-minute information is available on the .

The State Zoo in Asheboro announced that it would be closed.

The National Weather Service put Wake County and counties to the east under a winter weather advisory, while Durham, Orange and Chatham counties and areas to the west and north were put under a winter weather warning. Those conditions begin  at 6 a.m. and go through midnight.

The advisory means "periods of snow, sleet, or freezing rain will cause travel difficulties." The weather service advised residents to " be prepared for slippery roads and limited visibilities and use caution while driving."

A warning, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel explained, means an accumulation of 3 inches is considered possible. An advisory indicates forecasters think less than 3 inches would accumulate.

Fishel said precipitation may not begin until mid-morning in parts of the Triangle. When it begins, we will see a mixture of snow and sleet around the Triangle and areas north and west. Anywhere from 1 to 2 inches of snow and 0.25 inches of ice could accumulate.

In most areas where it begins as snow, it probably will switch over to freezing rain by early afternoon, then to rain in late afternoon as the air close to the ground warms, Fishel said.

Areas around Durham and Chapel Hill and west and north have a "respectable possibility" of getting 1 to 2 inches or perhaps even 3 inches of snow initially, Fishel said. The Raleigh area will probably get about 1 inch, he said.

The weather in the southern part of the state is expected to start as snow and then switch to rain, Fishel said.

Gov. Mike Easley activated the State Emergency Response Team. Preparations included coordinating preparations for emrgency shelters if they become necessary. Easley urged residents to be cautious, saying "We do not want a repeat of what happened two years ago when people were surprised by the weather at midday and were stranded for hours on our highways."

The state Department of Transportation said crews went out today Wednesday, "pre-treating bridges, overpasses and sections of major highways in areas along and west of Interstate 95 in preparation for the forecasted winter weather. "

"The department will work to clear interstates first, then major U.S. and N.C. routes, then secondary roads. People who must travel should use extra caution, especially while driving on secondary roads, bridges and overpasses," officials said.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker urged residents to use caution in deciding whether to drive Thursday, and he asked employers to be flexible if employees need to be late for safety reasons. He said city trucks would be pre-treating roads after the Wednesday rush-hour traffic cleared. A storm that hit roads during the day in January 2005 closed schools early and brought traffic to a standstill for hours.

The Town of Chapel Hill said it was pre-treating roadways late Wednesday.

Utilities readied for the storm, too.

“We are ready for any frozen precipitation that may come,” said Hershell McCarty, system storm coordinator-Progress Energy Carolinas. “We are monitoring the forecast closely and are mobilizing our crews so we can restore’s any power outages as quickly and safely as possible.”

"It's going to be a painful day for a lot of folks," said Jonathan Blaes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

Widespread power outages are not expected to occur, Blaes said, but he noted that temperatures have been cold for the past 10 days, creating more of a chance for accumulation.

Thursday's highs are expected to be in the lower to mid-30s. With the potential in the forecast for freezing rain, motorists are urged to use caution, especially on bridges.

"The speed limit may say 55, it may say 45, but that doesn't mean you can travel at that speed," said state Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin. "The No. 1 type of collision we have is the rear-end fender-bender."
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  • jwkrock Feb 1, 2007

    Pretty sad that a report about winter weather prompts so much trash talk between Northerners and Southerners. Tell ya what, I'm from the west coast, and neither of you can drive, ever, so drop it and stop being so childish.

    Instead, how about everyone have a safe day, drive as best as you can, if you need to go somewhere, get there safe.

  • mlmt4 Feb 1, 2007

    Just remember, those of you so happy for the day off, it is a day that has to be made up on Feb. 19th according to the WCPSS calendar. That means there are no 3-day weekends for high school students to give them a mental break for the entire third quarter. (I have two high-schoolers.) For those who don't like how WCPSS makes their decisions related to weather, move to Durham County schools please.

  • Fence Straddler Feb 1, 2007

    Watch out for the rear end fender benders!
    Drive Safely!

    Remember in subdivisions: Most children are on school delays.

  • g88ky Feb 1, 2007

    Yeah, and now if it would JUST snow so that all the forecasters don't look like dummies!

  • slobnoise Feb 1, 2007

    Its a good thing the schools are closed !! Because the kids would have to spend the night at school if a snow flake fell

  • millerde Feb 1, 2007

    yeah It would be great if Meredith would close....if waketech is closed...Meredith should be too. I'm a commuter and if there is any white stuff or anything I am not going to class tomorrow. Go wake county for planning ahead this year though! Wish they did that while I was in highschool. :P but it was always a nice surprise to wake up to.

  • jlmcclam Feb 1, 2007

    yeh its funny one inch of snow gets everyone wild!!!!!!! scary to me .. come on do we seriously care? or do we just want an excuse to complain..?

  • storch2 Feb 1, 2007

    As a former Yankee, I appreciate the fact that I'm not forced to drive around on a snow day when cowboys (and -girls) in pick-up trucks and 4WD vehicles mistakenly think that it's their birthright to tailgate or pass unsafely (they're everywhere, by the way -- it's not a North/South thing). I personally have no complaints about the DOT or utility folks in NC. They're doing the best they can with what they've got. During our last really bad ice storm, my husband and I stood on the porch in 20-degree weather and applauded the Piedmont Electric guys at 2 AM when they fixed our electricity after a 23-hour outage.

    I just view those power outages as a good opportunity to play candlelight Scrabble. :)

  • capefearwx Feb 1, 2007

    I didn't see the original comment about how "bad" Southerners are with winter weather, but wanted to agree that NO ONE is any good at driving on ice. Ice can cripple any place it accumulates: a good example is the 1998 ice strom that paralyzed parts of NY and New England. Thing is, central NC is actually more susceptible to ice events than many places up north, due to a mechanism called "cold-air damming" that sets up here from time to time. So while the North gets buried in snow, we have to deal with sleet/freezing rain, which can't be plowed easily if at all, and which having snow tires won't help with!

  • Sherlockholmes Feb 1, 2007

    Sa-lute!

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