RALEIGH — February 3, 1996, 7:42 am, EST
Overnight precipitation turned much of central and eastern North Carolina into a winter wonderland -- very pretty if you have electricity and don't need to travel anywhere, but a different story otherwise.
And it will be with us for several days, because not until Tuesday will the Triangle see temperatures rise sufficiently to allow even slight melting.
At 7 a.m. Saturday, the precipitation was moving out, although there was still a touch of light flurries at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The Triangle temperature was 21, but the wind chill brought it to 8 degrees.
Sunday's low is expected to be 14, with a high of 25. Monday, Triangle residents will wake up to 8 degrees, which may be a record low for the date (9 degrees was recorded on that date in 1980), and the high is projected at 32. Parents are advised to bundle up children very thoroughly if the kids want to try sledding on the icy streets.
Some trees, already burdened with ice, have begun falling or dropping their limbs. That is expected to continue through today, and may cause even more power outages across the state.
Crews from both Duke Power and Carolina Power and Light are working as fast as they can to restore power to customers, some of whom have been without electricity since Friday afternoon. Durham County alone had almost 5,000 Duke Power customers without power early Saturday morning. In Orange County, 1900 customers were without power. These numbers are an improvement over Friday's figures. Work has been progressing, but is hampered by the frigid conditions.
The power companies and local emergency services ask that you not call 911 to report a power outage at your home. Please reserve 911 for medical emergencies and fires. Call the power company to report electrical outages or downed power lines
Many Triangle area hotels and motels found business brisk, as families moved in until power was restored in their homes.
The NC Dept of Transportation has been spreading salt on key streets and highways since Friday. Roads are passable in some places, not as good in others. Raleigh Police Captain Ralph Longmire advises those who possibly can to, "Stay home."
Overnight, Raleigh police answered calls to 128 traffic mishaps, 80 downed trees, and 170 downed electrical wires
Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which had closed for a while Friday afternoon, continued to be open into early Saturday. Individual airlines, however, may be cancelling flights and prospective passengers are urged to contact their airline to learn current status.
Early Saturday morning, Asheville reported 20 degrees and 2 inches of ice and snow on the ground. Boone was at 13 degrees. Roanoke reported 17 degrees, and Richmond was at 19, with almost 3 inches of frozen precipitation making travel hazardous.
To keep people as up-to-date as possible with news, current weather, closings and road conditions, WRAL-TV news and MIX 101.5 are providing simulcasts. They are scheduled for Saturday morning until 9, for 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday and for 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday, and 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sunday. The radio simulcast is especially important for people who have lost power and are using battery powered radios to keep posted.
And from the "It Could Have Been Worse" category -- had this precipitation arrived as snow, the Triangle could have received 20 inches. WRAL Weather Center meteorologist Mike Maze said that, as a rough measure, 1 inch of rain equals 10 inches of snow and this area had about 2 inches of freezing rain, sleet and light snow.