Blog: Snowstorm causes major power outages across central NC
Posted February 25, 2015
Updated March 5, 2015
12:30 p.m.: A winter storm warning has expired for central North Carolina, but hazardous travel conditions are expected to be an issue throughout the afternoon, evening and into the day Friday, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.
"We have another cold front headed through our area this evening, and it's going to bring another blast of cold air," she said. "All of the slush on the roads now is going to be frozen overnight, so the morning commute will be treacherous again tomorrow."
Highs Thursday afternoon will barely creep above freezing, and overnight lows will dip into the mid-20s. Friday highs will once again be in the mid-and upper-30s.
12:00 p.m.: Gov. Pat McCrory says power outages continue to be the biggest issue after the third winter storm in the last two weeks. He reminded residents to stay clear of downed power lines. About 100,000 Duke Energy customers in Wake and Durham counties were without power at noon.
DOT Secretary Tony Tata said brine operations before the storm did help crews start to clear the state's roads early Thursday.
"We've got 80,000 miles of roadway that we maintain and clear, so at the end of the day, they're working hard," Tata said. "They are going to clear interstates and primary roads."
Tata said some crews from area's that did not receive much wintry precipitation will be moving north to help clear more roads.
11:55 a.m.: Gov. Pat McCrory will speak at noon Thursday to provide an update on how the state is responding to the third round of winter weather in the last week. Watch it live on WRAL.com.
11:40 a.m.: Crews are continuing to make progress at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and flight schedules are expected to get back to normal during the afternoon on Thursday, officials said.
In total, about 100 arrivals and departures were canceled Thursday morning as snow and rain moved through the area.
Travelers are urged to check the status of their flights before driving to the airport.
11:30 a.m.: Lt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman with the North Carolina Highway Patrol, reminds Triangle-area drivers to use extra caution if they must travel during the afternoon Thursday.
"Increase your following distance, slow down and pay attention. One small area that is covered with snow or ice can lead to a wreck," he said.
11:25 a.m.: Rob Robbins, a resident of Wilson, said tree damage from Thursday morning's snow reminded him of something he might see after a hurricane. Robbins said he heard a large limb fall overnight.
"It was probably about 1:30 a.m. and it was like a crack, whap and a pop. You could actually feel the ground almost tremble," he said.
10:55 a.m.: Officials at North Carolina Central University in Durham have relocated students in four dorms to McDougald-McClendon Gymnasium and other residence halls because of a power outage.
A university spokesperson said the university is waiting on Duke Energy crews to restore power to campus. Parts of the campus do have power, but students were relocated from Eagle Landing, Richmond, New Resident Hall II and Ruffin.
10:45 a.m.: The National Weather Service has canceled a winter weather advisory for several counties south of the Triangle.
The advisory for Cumberland, Hoke, Sampson another other counties had been scheduled to run out at noon Thursday. Much of the southern part of the area saw mostly rain as the winter storm pushed through the area.
10:30 a.m.: Duke Energy is beginning to see improvement in power outage numbers, according to spokesman Jeff Brooks.
"You have to take those small victories, and we're starting to see numbers go down, especially in Wake County," he said. "As more crews arrive to the area from other parts of the state, that will exponentially help us get the lights back on. I think we'll start to see major improvement in the next few hours."
As of 10:30 a.m., about 80,000 Duke Energy customers in Wake County were without power. About 36,000 customers are without power in Durham County.
10:15 a.m.: Precipitation has moved out of the area, but clouds will continue to linger across the central part of the state all day, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.
"Don't be surprised if you see a sprinkle today, but the bulk of this system is now off the coast and moving to the northeast," she said.
Temperatures will be at or near freezing throughout the day.
9:50 a.m.: Officials at Raleigh-Durham International Airport say that more than 100 flights have been canceled through noon Thursday. One runway is currently open and flights are able to take off and land.
Crews have worked throughout the night to keep the airfield open, clear airport roadways and treat parking lots and sidewalks.
Passengers are strongly encouraged to check flight status before heading to the airport. If scheduled to fly, please plan to arrive early for check-in and security screening.
9:45 a.m.: Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said power outage numbers are beginning to level off across the area as crews get out to assess damage and make repairs.
Brooks said people should continue to report outages so that crews can have a full picture of what the situation looks like.
"Most importantly, do not go near any downed power lines," he said. "Give our crews space to work, and we'll start to see the numbers go down."
As of 9:45 a.m., about 87,000 Duke Energy customers remain without power in Wake County.
9:25 a.m.: Authorities have shut down both directions of Falls of Neuse Road in north Raleigh after a car hit and downed power lines early Thursday. Raleigh police had no estimate on when the road, which was shut down in the 4900 block, may reopen.
Officials were waiting on utility crews to arrive.
9:20 a.m.: Dozens of roads across the northern half of the Triangle are blocked due to downed trees and tree limbs, and authorities have closed some roadways due to slick conditions.
The canopy of a gas station in Henderson collapsed early Thursday morning due to the weight of about 8 inches of snow. No injuries were reported in the incident, officials said.
A large tree fell onto a section of Duke View Apartments on Morreene Road in Durham as well. No injuries were reported.
Power outage numbers have leveled off in the Triangle and even dropped in some places, but hundreds of thousands remain in the dark. About 90,000 Duke Energy customers are without power in Wake County, and another 35,000 in Durham County are waiting for service to be restored.
9:15 a.m.: Officials at UNC-Chapel Hill announced that the school will remain closed until 10 a.m. Friday due to winter weather.
8:30 a.m.: Snow continues to push out of the region from west to east, and it has largely cleared the bulk of the Triangle, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.
"Don't be surprised if you see a sprinkle or flurry through early afternoon, and we still have our winter storm warning through noon Thursday in the bulk of the area," she said.
Power outage numbers have dropped slightly in Wake County, falling to about 90,000 Duke Energy customer in the dark at about 8:15.
8:00 a.m.: Teachers and staff at South Johnston High School took advantage of the snow day to create a parody video of the song hit from "Frozen."
7:45 a.m.: Power outages continue to mount across the central part of the state. In Wake County, more than 90,000 Duke Energy customers are in the dark. That number is better than 36,000 in Durham County.
Statewide, more than 210,000 customers are without power.
Although snow is coming to an end, downed trees and tree limbs will continue to be an issue thanks to the wet, heavy snow.
"We'll start to dry out across the area this morning, but don't be surprised to see some mist and drizzle," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. "Power outages is the number one impact of this storm, and the roads are still going to be dangerous in northern areas."
7:24 a.m.: North Carolina State University has canceled classes for Thursday due to winter weather.
7:10 a.m.: Snow and wintry precipitation will begin to come to an end across the Triangle in the next hour or two as the massive area of low pressure slides off the coast, according to WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.
"It's coming to an end pretty quickly from west to east," she said. "The back edge of the snow began pulling into western Wake County just before 7 a.m., and it will continue to push east through the 8 a.m. hour."
6:55 a.m.: Wake County officials released tips early Thursday for how to stay safe during extended power outages:
- Place the generator outdoors facing away from doors, windows and vents. Never use a generator inside – even the garage
- Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy-duty, outdoor rated extension cord.
- Let the generator cool before refueling
Household gas appliance safety
- To prevent flue gases from backing up into the home and creating a carbon monoxide hazard; exhaust vents of outside gas furnaces, gas water heaters, and gas dryers shall be kept clear of drifting snow
- Never use gas stoves or ovens as a heating source
- Never run a vehicle inside an attached garage
- Never bring grills inside to cook
- Use propane and charcoal grills outside and at least 10 feet away from the house. Using them inside the garage even with the door open poses a serious risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning
6:30 a.m.: Despite three rounds of winter weather in the last two weeks, salt supplies are in good shape across the area, according to DOT spokesman Mike Charbonneau.
"We've had additional salt coming in recently. In Wake County, they got an additional 800 tons this week," he said. "We feel confident we have enough to get through this storm and the rest of the week."
Charbonneau said road crews are continuing to pull double duty as they push snow off the roads and clear downed trees and tree limbs.
"When we can get out and push the heavy snow, it's easier for our crews to work with that than it is when we have sheets of ice," he said. "It's going to take time, though, so we're asking people to stay off the roads if they can."
6:20 a.m.: Snowfall totals are continuing to come in as the back end of precipitation begins to arrive in the western parts of the area. Most of Wake County has seen between 2 and 5 inches of snow, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. To the north, some areas have seen more, with totals in the northern parts of the area topping 7 or even 8 inches.
"We've seen a sharp drop in snowfall amounts once you get south of Wake County and that U.S. Highway 64 corridor," she said.
Officials with the Durham County Sheriff's Office said snow totals in the county range from 4 inches in the south to about 7 inches in the north.
6 a.m.: Power outages continue to climb across the Triangle and the state. More than 78,000 Duke Energy customers are without power in Wake County, and another 34,000 in Durham are in the dark. Statewide, more than 186,000 customers are without service.
5:50 a.m.: Calls about downed trees and tree limbs continue to come in, and power outages continue to be an issue across a large portion of the Triangle, especially in Wake and Durham counties.
"We are getting plenty of calls about trees being down, and we're responding to those now," Wake County Assistant Maintenance Engineer Jason Dunigan said. "We're trying to clear the roads for power companies so they can get out and do what they do."
Dunigan said the brine that crews spread Wednesday afternoon and evening did help.
"We are pushing snow off the interstate and primary roads now, and it's coming off pretty good. The roads are coming along, it's just going to take time," he said.
5:43 a.m.: Johnston County schools will be closed Thursday for staff and students, the school system announced.
5:35 a.m.: Raleigh-Durham International Airport is operating one runway, which is common during winter weather. About 100 flights have been canceled through early morning until noon.
Crews are treating taxiways and runways.
5:20 a.m.: Rain is beginning to transition back to snow in parts of Wake County, according to WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. That trend is likely to continue throughout the early part of the morning as the back edge of a massive area of precipitation moves out of the area from west to east.
"We're probably going to see this light snow stay with us through about 7 or 8 a.m. across the bulk of the region," she said. "The back edge is moving through the Triad now. We could see a bit of additional accumulation, but it won't be anything major. I don't think we'll see a change back over to rain after this in the Triangle."
5:15 a.m.: North Carolina Highway Patrol spokesman Michael Baker urged Triangle-area residents to remain off the roads if possible Thursday morning.
"We're asking people to stay clear of the DOT trucks and allow them to do their jobs," he said. "Around Wake County is a particular trouble spot. Some areas are seeing slushy snow, and the northern parts of the Triangle are much more treacherous."
4:45 a.m.: Downed trees and tree limbs are continuing to cause power outages across the Triangle, with nearly 60,000 Duke Energy customers without power in Wake County alone. Statewide, nearly 155,000 customers are without power.
Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for Duke Energy, said crews are out across the state working to restore power.
"We've been restoring power throughout the night, but with Wake and Durham counties being the hardest hit, we have to go out and assess the damage and then assign crews," Brooks said. "It's a methodical process, but it's efficient."
4:20 a.m.: Mixed precipitation is beginning to change back over to snow in parts of Wake County, Elizabeth Gardner says, and that should continue as the back edge of precipitation moves into the area.
"We'll start to see the biggest part of our precipitation come to an end by about 7 or 8 a.m., and then we could be dealing with light drizzle on and off throughout the day," she said.
Clouds will stay put as the precipitation moves out, and daytime highs will hover just above freezing.
4:05 a.m.: WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said wintry precipitation will continue across the bulk of the area through the early-morning hours.
"We've seen the snow change to sleet, freezing rain or even rain in spots, and it's all falling on top of heavy, wet snow," she said. "That is why we're seeing so many power outages, because ice is falling on top of this heavy snow."
Heaviest snowfall totals are in the northern parts of the Triangle. Areas around Roxboro have seen about 6 inches. Parts of northern Wake County to the northeast have seen 4 to 5 inches.
A winter storm warning is in effect for the bulk of the area until noon Thursday, and the freezing precipitation could change back over to snow as it begins to move out.
3:56 a.m:.More than 90,000 Duke Energy customers are without power in the Triangle area, including 45,000 in Wake County and about 34,000 in Durham County.
2:22 a.m.: Over 50,000 Duke Progress Energy customers in Cary and Raleigh are without power.
2:05 a.m.: WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel described the precipitation as "heavy, wet snow" and that it should taper off at around sunrise.
"We still have a ways to go with the intense precipitation," he said.
1:33 a.m.: More power outages are being reported across the Triangle, including more than 2,600 Duke Progress Energy customers in the area of Timber Drive and Vandora Springs Road in Garner, nearly 1,500 customers in the area of Duraleigh Road and Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, more than 4,400 in Chapel Hill and more than 2,500 in the area of Cameron and Duke University boulevards in Durham.
1:08 a.m.: From WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze:
- Snow is piling up on area highways, especially on Interstate 40 at U.S. Highway 15-501 in Durham. "At times we've seen the snow come down as hard as an inch, up to two inches an hour."
- Latest snow totals: Cary, 2.5 inches; Raleigh, 1.6 inches;, Hillsborough & Roxboro, 3 inches; Asheboro, 5.5 inches.
- The storm will end as a wintry mix, and extensive icy spots are expected overnight Thursday.
12:58 a.m.: Multiple power outages have been reported across the area, including nearly 2,500 Duke Progress Energy customers in the area of Six Forks and Lynn roads in Raleigh and nearly 800 customers in the area of U.S. Highway 64 and Mackenan Drive in Cary.
12:04 a.m. Thursday: Multiple viewers reported "thundersnow" and lightning in Cary and southern Wake County.
11:50 p.m.: At least 1.5 inches of snow has fallen in Durham; 1 inch in Raleigh, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.
11:40 p.m.: WRAL Reporter Brian Mims in Fayetteville: “What I’m seeing and feeling is a dreary, drenching rain.” He added that roads in the Fayetteville area are in good shape.
11:38 p.m.: WRAL Reporter Adam Owens in Raleigh: “The snow just keeps coming down, and pretty heavy at that. And it continues to stack up on roads. The roads are pretty much white-over, so you want to be very careful if you’re out here, but the idea is not to be out here.”
11:22 p.m.: Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said it will be about 7 a.m. before precipitation lights up and that the Triangle could receive 6-10 inches of snow. “Down around Fayetteville, if you do get anything, it’ll be towards the tail end of this event,” he said
11:15 p.m.: WRAL Reporter Ken Smith in Wilson - “We’ve seen it all. Snow flurries, sleet, freezing rain and now it’s snowing.”
10:50 p.m.: Big, fat flakes were falling in Durham, Maze said. "This is the kind of snow that will accumulate on the roads," he said.
10:15 p.m.: Multiple vehicle wrecks were reported in Johnston County as wintry precipitation caused roads to become slippery and dangerous.
10:05 p.m.: Snow was sticking to elevated surfaces, and in some places on the roadways. The Triangle area and points north and west will begin to see accumulating snow, meteorologist Mike Maze said.
9:40 p.m.: Meteorologist Mike Maze said the latest radar shows that snow and sleet has changed to rain in our southern counties.
9:08 p.m.: Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said he was surprised by how quickly the precipitation moved in and that it started as snow in most areas, and not rain. The latest model run shows the snow-rain line staying south of Wake County, meaning more of the county could see the higher snow amounts.
7:50 p.m.: Snow began falling in many counties across central NC.
White flakes began falling across central North Carolina just before 8 p.m. Wednesday as a storm forecast to drop possibly as much as 10 inches of snow slowly moved into the state.
Snow was reported in Spring Lake and northern Cumberland County as well as in Wake, Lee, Orange, Wayne, and Chatham counties.
Several counties, including Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Lee, Chatham, Orange, Durham, Franklin, Nash and Granville, are under a winter storm warning through noon Thursday.
Scotland, Hoke, Cumberland, Sampson and Wayne counties are under a winter weather advisory for the same period.
Many schools have already made the call to close or delay opening on Thursday ahead of the storm.
"By tomorrow morning, our northern counties could see up to 6 to 10 inches of snow, and areas around Fayetteville could see anywhere from 2 to 4," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.
Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency to allow the state to use all of its resources to respond to the weather.
North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said crews will be out in force ahead of the system as road conditions are expected to remain treacherous.
"We urge everyone to stay off the road if possible as this next round of weather hits us so that our crews can work safely and efficiently," Tata said.
Officials said DOT crews will have plenty of supplies to help treat roads before, during and after the snowstorm.
The system is expected to move out Thursday morning, but temperatures will struggle to get above freezing during the day, and flurries or light freezing precipitation could linger through the early afternoon.
Temperatures will remain below normal on Friday and over the weekend, with highs in the upper 30s, but a warmup is expected early next week.