Local News

One Year After Winter Gridlock, Raleigh's Ready For Next Time

Posted January 19, 2006

— One year ago, Raleigh highways were filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic, and they stayed that way for hours after an unexpected inch of snow fell in the Triangle.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker called for big changes after the snow event and now, the city says it is better prepared for an unexpected inch of snow.

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Jan. 19 Snowfall Gridlock

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The city will now use a salt brine mixture that dissolves snow and ice when it falls. For the first time, it will pre-treat bridges and roads if bad weather is forecasted.

"It's new to us and new to our area," said Raleigh Street Superintendent Elwood Davis. "It's not a new idea -- it's been used in the Midwest with great success."

Leaders now also have the ability to declare a weather emergency. In that case, people will be asked to stay off the roads and their cell phones.

"I think people will understand it doesn't make sense to go out on the roads that are unsafe," said Meeker. "Let's get them salted, let's get them calmed down, and people can go home in an unfazed fashion."

Because last year's snow caught a lot of people off-guard, the city is no longer relying on just one source for weather information. It's now in the policy that leaders check five weather sources as they make a decision whether to pre-treat roads.

The city is now also communicating more closely with the state Department of Transportation on its strategies, so together they can keep traffic moving.

While traffic was backed up for hours on the roadways, about 350 students were stranded at area schools, having to spend the night.

Wakefield Elementary school students and staff commemorated the gridlock anniversary Thursday by wearing pajamas to school. The only sign of snow for them were the snowmen they made in class.

"The kids were having a blast," said guidance counselor Margaret Lynn Williams. "They weren't scared at all, but the parents were frantic about it."

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