Weather

Officials urge drivers to continue to stay off roads

Posted January 8

— Treacherous road conditions in the Triangle only worsened overnight due to plummeting temperatures that froze the ice and snow left on the streets after Saturday's storm. The same could happen again on Sunday night when temperatures plunge into the single digits.

Most highways and interstates in the area are now clear, but many secondary roads are still covered in snow and ice that will continue to freeze overnight. Officials are reminding all motorists to stay off the roads, noting that even some seemingly-clear highways are full of slippery black ice.

Officials: All wet roads pose a risk

"Anything that looks wet is frozen." That's the important message officials want motorists to keep in mind if they venture out onto the roadways today.

A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect until Tuesday due to icy roads and below-freezing temperatures.

Officials in police departments and other agencies from multiple counties in North Carolina have cautioned the public of one thing all day -- avoid driving at all costs.

With a wintry mix of snow, slush and freezing rain on the roads, officials are cautioning motorists that it's difficult to know what kind of slippery conditions are under the snowy surface. It's really best to not drive at all, they say.

"Although the storm has passed, we urge our citizens to avoid driving to keep them safe and allow our crews to work," said Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry.

Freezing temps won't help

Below-freezing temperatures will drop into the teens Sunday evening and remain there throughout the night, ensuring the wintry mix sticks around.

"Temperatures are going to be so cold that it will be hard to get rid of this snow," said WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. Temperatures will drop into the single digits overnight, making conditions even colder before things start warming up on Tuesday.

"Start thinking about your plan for Monday morning," said Gardner. "You are not going to want to get out the door before 9 a.m. or maybe even before lunchtime."

Road conditions vary across the viewing area

Road conditions across the viewing area are widely varied on Sunday. Like most major interstates in the area, I-40 at Fayetteville road is mainly clear, but drivers should be aware that numerous black ice patches could remain for the day.

Sprayberry said that only two major roads in the state remain closed as a result of the storm- U.S. Highway 441 in Swain County and N.C. Highway 1505 in Harnett County.

Officials warned that although the sun melted some snow and ice Sunday afternoon, the potential for black ice remains and drivers should only venture out when absolutely necessary.

"Secondary roads and some primary roads may look like they're fine, but you must use vigilance," Sprayberry said.

Nathan Hommell ended up in a ditch along Mount Vernon Church Road on Sunday when his car started sliding on ice and he couldn't stop it. He waited hours for a tow truck to rescue him.

"It is pretty difficult to stop yourself," Hommell said. "It is just pure ice from here on."

Aalyah Alston was tied up in an accident on Rock Quarry Road but just feet away, John Adams took a different approach with an ATV.

"This is what you have the snow for. When it falls outside, the first thing you think it 'I want to get on my four-wheeler'," Adams said.

Roads deteriorate north, west of Raleigh

Though all roads with wet spots became slippery as temperatures dropped overnight, conditions on Sunday are poorest in the areas that saw the most accumulation.

That means counties northwest of Raleigh, including Orange and Durham counties, where 6 or more inches of snow were reported in multiple areas.

Deputies in Durham reported that Interstate 85, Highway 147, and U.S. 70 are passable while Highway 98 is still affected by snow and ice. Icy conditions lingered into Sunday night on secondary roads.

The Durham County Sheriff's Office said that they saw an increase in service calls throughout the day as drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles. Several drivers were also left stranded after their vehicles slid on icy roads.

Even in Raleigh, which saw no more than 2 inches of snow, a second dusting of snow covers secondary roads to the point where it is hard to see the lane dividers. At this point, those roads leading to the highway are of the main concern, as are neighborhood streets.

Although towns in Cumberland County and surrounding areas saw less snow than we did in the Triangle, some snow and rain did fall, which could make for some slippery spots on roads.

All roads will be slick, posing danger to drivers and passengers, officials said. I-95 at NC-24 and other major roads in the county are clear, but, like in other counties across the viewing area, officials caution that secondary roads are not as safe.

Officials in Johnston County say the interstates are clear except for some icy spots and that secondary roads are still treacherous.

1 killed as a result of winter storm

Gov. Roy Cooper said during a Sunday afternoon press conference that one person was killed Sunday morning as a result of icy conditions from the storm. Cooper said that a driver slid off an ice-covered interstate late Sunday morning in Montgomery County and died when the car slid down an embankment and hit a tree. Two other people in that vehicle were seriously injured, he said.

Sprayberry said that two DOT workers were injured and five accidents involving DOT employees occurred during the course of the storm.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said that troopers responded to 1,324 collisions statewide between 12 a.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday; 386 of those crashes were in the Triangle.

Power restored to many

Officials estimate that about 12,000 people in North Carolina were without power at 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning. By Sunday afternoon, 704 were still without power in Durham County. Dozens more remained in the dark in Wake and Moore counties.

A crew was working to restore power at Miami Boulevard and Lumly Road in Durham since 5 a.m. Sunday Jeff Brooks with Duke Energy said the area is the source of most power outages in Durham and power was restored to all but a few by Sunday night. Crews that had to take frequent breaks due to the cold worked to repair power lines and low hanging streetlights as hundreds without power in Durham hunkered down. Annie Logan said her power has been out since 5 a.m. Sunday.

"Thankfully we have a gas fireplace so we're kind of hanging out near that and our laptops are still charged so we can watch DVDs on that but besides that, we're just reading books and hanging out as close to the fireplace as we can," she said.

Logan stepped out Sunday to grab a few snacks only to find that quite a few traffic lights were out along one of Durham's main thoroughfares and many businesses were still closed.

"Sheetz, Shell, Dollar General; everything is closed because everybody's power is out," Logan said.

DOT working to clear the roads

Workers with the Department of Transportation worked around the clock Sunday to clear roads, but things are expected to refreeze Sunday night as temperatures plunge again.

Plows start with the largest, most-traveled roads first, like the four-lane interstates, then move to the smaller yet significant roads that take drivers to those main roads.

Secondary roads and neighborhood streets follow.

Wake County Maintenance Engineer Jason Dunigan said that main crews will go home for the day at about 7 p.m. and a skeleton crew will be brought in to continue to maintain roads.

"When the sun goes down, with the temperatures already low, it's not going to be able to come off easy," Dunigan said of the ice. "There's no way to get it off the road when the temperatures are that cold."

Salt used by the DOT becomes ineffective when temperatures drop below 20 degrees, officials said.

Dunigan said that overnight crews will place salt and sand on the roads to create traction and clearing will resume in the morning. A crew will be brought in at 3 a.m. Monday to attempt to halt refreezing on interstates for people who will attempt to get to work.

Due to less accumulation, highways in Raleigh and Cary were clearer than those running through Durham and Chapel Hill, but officials are still warning motorists to avoid driving. If you must drive, drive slowly and keep ample distance between your car and other cars, officials said.

The majority of interstates and primary roads were clear as of Sunday afternoon, Sprayberry said, but crews will continue plowing secondary roads Monday at 7 a.m.

Based on anticipated road conditions, GoTriangle service will resume Monday at 7 a.m.

Tips to stay safe

If you must drive in the snow storm, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol offers a list of tips for driving in winter weather.

  • Clear your vehicle's windows and mirrors.
  • Reduce your speed. Driving at the regular speed limit will reduce your ability to control the car if you begin to slide. Do not use cruise control.
  • On a four-lane highway, stay in the clearest lane and drive only in paths that are already cleared. Do not try to change lanes.
  • Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles. Highway safety experts recommend keeping the distance of four cars between you and other vehicles for every 10 mph you're driving.
  • Bridges and overpasses accumulate ice first. Approach them with extreme caution, and do not apply your brakes while on the bridge.
  • If you do begin to slide, take your foot off the gas, and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not apply the brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car.
  • Come to a complete stop or yield the right-of-way at intersections where traffic lights are out. Treat this situation as a four-way stop.
  • If you have a cellular phone, take it with you. You can call the Highway Patrol statewide by dialing *HP (*47) or call the local county emergency center by dialing 911. Call 511 for information about highway travel conditions; do not call 911 for that information.

If you become trapped in your car:

  • Pull off the highway; stay calm, and remain in your vehicle. At night, turn on the inside dome light, so work and rescue crews can see you.
  • Set your directional lights to "flashing," and hang a cloth or distress flag from the radio aerial or window. In a rural or wilderness area, spread a large cloth over the snow to attract attention of rescue crews who might be surveying the area by airplane.
  • Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter.
  • If you run the engine to keep warm, open a window slightly for ventilation. This will protect you from possible carbon-monoxide poisoning. Periodically, clear away snow from the exhaust pipe.
  • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers, and use your coat as a blanket.
  • Never let everyone in the car sleep at once. One person should stay awake to look out for rescue crews.
  • Be careful not to use battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – the use of lights, heat and radio – with your supply.

If you are involved in a wreck, here are some ways to prevent further injuries, reduce costs and speed up the repair process:

  • Protect yourself from the start. Use your cell phone or a camera to take photos of the scene and the vehicles involved.
  • Move the vehicles and all of the people involved well out of the way so they don't cause another wreck.
  • Before you have your vehicle towed to a repair shop, get references and check the shop's status with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Since the average crash repair costs more than $2,200, get a written estimate before any work begins.
  • Have patience. Severe weather often means it will be busy at auto repair shops.
  • If the wreck is minor, you and the other driver might decide to handle the damages without involving insurance companies. There are risks, however: You or the other driver might later change your mind; the other driver might claim injuries, and that could create more problems than just higher insurance rates.

Local road closures

The Town of Rolesville and the Town of Wake Forest have closed Rogers Road between Heritage Gates Drive to Hobblebush Way, according to the town manager. Barricades have been put in place because of the road's icy and slippery conditions.

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