Weather

Winter storm weakens, but threat of freezing roads strengthens

Posted March 2
Updated March 3

Doppler - Central NC

— A winter storm that moved into North Carolina early Monday was weakening by the afternoon, diminishing worries about major sleet or snow accumulation along roadways in the Triangle and points north.

But the threat isn't over yet.

WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said a final center of rotation to the storm was sweeping through the state Monday evening, bringing spotty, light frozen precipitation before skies clear.

Some areas were seeing bursts of heavy snow that lasted about 4 to 5 minutes before stopping. Areas affected included those northwest of Durham and Chapel Hill and parts of Warren County.

Areas farther to the south were seeing mainly sleet.

As the system moves out of central North Carolina, any remaining precipitation will freeze overnight as temperatures drop into the teens.

“We’re looking at a situation this afternoon where it may not be as bad over as big of an area as we feared,” he said. "Just because we've been lucky so far, don't let your guard down, because things could still be slick out there tonight."

The National Weather Service canceled winter storm warnings for several counties – including Nash, Halifax, Person and Vance – north of the Triangle, but winter weather advisories were in effect until midnight for those areas, as well as numerous other central counties, including Wake, Cumberland, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wayne.

The advisory means a half-inch of snow and sleet, along with a glaze to a tenth of an inch of ice accumulation, is still possible.

Monday's storm heralded the return of harsher winter weather following a spring-like weekend that saw temperatures in the 70s across much of central and eastern North Carolina.

Rain began moving south into the state in the early morning, reaching Durham by 8 a.m. Light snow and sleet were reported in areas bordering Virginia, but the warm ground temperatures left over from the weekend helped prevent accumulations in the central part of the state.

Several school systems in the area dismissed early Monday, and by Monday evening, several, including those in Cumberland, Franklin, Harnett, Hoke and Johnston counties, had announced two-hour delays for Tuesday. Orange County and Vance County schools had canceled classes Tuesday.

State Department of Transportation officials said crews did not brine roads in Wake County on Monday because the rain would have washed it away. The DOT has already exhausted its $30 million in winter weather funds, but officials said there are reserve funds that can be tapped if needed.

There are 50 trucks available in Wake County through the evening, and 24 trucks will be out overnight, NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott said.

Raleigh police urged drivers not to "block the box" if the evening commute gets tricky. In other words, drivers should not clog intersections by moving through them when there's not enough room to get to the other side. The maneuver violates both city and state laws.

"Blocking the box causes problems under any conditions, but its headaches can be magnified by adverse weather," Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said in a statement. "Some of the congestion issues experienced during the Feb. 12 snowfall were related to blocked intersections."

Sughrue was referring to major traffic backups that happened during last month's snowstorm, when hundreds of drivers abandoned their cars along Triangle roadways.

Police said blocked intersections make it more difficult for emergency vehicles to reach people who need help.

"Our goal is to improve traffic flow and lessen the stress caused by congested intersections," said Lt. Tim Tomczak of the department’s Special Operations Division, which includes the Traffic Enforcement Unit. “We want to do all we can to make drivers more aware of the potential problems and the laws.”

More than 100 flights from the Northeast have been canceled at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Departing flights are faring better, but travelers are encouraged to check before heading to the airport.

Wind chills will make for a frigid Tuesday morning, when temperatures will feel like 4 degrees at 5 a.m. The afternoon high will reach 38 degrees.

The next chance of precipitation will be Thursday, but temperatures are expected to be above freezing, so anything that falls would likely be rain.

62 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • Gator Girll Mar 3, 6:06 p.m.

    Our deck in SW Durham is covered in ice right noe. The forecast seemed pretty accurate to me.

  • Backpacker Mar 3, 5:51 p.m.

    It is SO easy for you guys to play armchair quarterback. Instead of slamming the weather folks,... View More

    — Posted by AskWhy

    Actually it shows how little they understand about weather. As the saying goes "It's better to be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt".

  • AskWhy Mar 3, 5:22 p.m.

    It is SO easy for you guys to play armchair quarterback. Instead of slamming the weather folks, why don't you offer info about road conditions, etc, YOU are seeing to other viewers. You know, HELP one another? The weather folks at WRAL do a very good job and I, for one, appreciate any and all forecasts they provide. Rather be safe than sorry....

  • NoMoreOfThat Mar 3, 5:04 p.m.

    Oops. It fizzled out. Don't blame the weather guessers. How are they supposed to know.

  • mcraineycrazies Mar 3, 5:04 p.m.

    i would rather get told we are getting it then, it comes and we all end up stranded,, seriously, the weather people do what they can, they dont have an acual crystal ball people, be thankful we are informed, when it doesnt come, you all should be sighing in relief that we didnt get it instead of complaining

  • abwhite88 Mar 3, 4:09 p.m.

    You hear that folks? Time to start wrecking..

  • thewayitis Mar 3, 3:59 p.m.

    We had all that was predicted in Hillsborough -- snow, sleet and freezing rain. Right now a mixture of freezing rain and sleet, at 26 degrees.

  • akgibson20 Mar 3, 3:29 p.m.

    and had they downplayed it and it turned out to be worse than expected all you people would be complaining about that. It IS better to be SAFE than sorry. It is better to have your kids home SAFE than to wait and the roads be bad and they are stuck out in it, or worse, injured because someone didn't want to burn a vacation day. Weather prediction is not a perfect science...a one or two degree difference in the atmospheric temps can cause a drastic change down below. Stop complaining, you are safe, you are warm, your children are safe. If you think you can do a much better job then I suggest you go to college and learn and then get out there and predict that weather perfectly yourself. As for myself and my vehicle, I would rather be OFF the roads than have some know it all "I can drive on this better than anyone" driving like the roads are perfectly dry and safe, then sliding into me because they can't stop in time.

  • Wise Man Says Mar 3, 3:27 p.m.

    " Already had people at my job flippin out about leaving early and second shift people calling out,, ridiculous man, your car actually drives over snow and ice."
    — Posted by Jimmytwotimes

    Clarification: cars drive over snow and ice. There drivers, however, don't.

  • Jimmytwotimes Mar 3, 3:18 p.m.

    First off smarties, They(meteorologists) got their predictions right on last two storms. ... View More

    — Posted by Jimmytwotimes

    Um, no. The day before the Snowpocalypse put the Triangle's afternoon gridlock on the national... View More

    — Posted by HeadsUp

    And who the heck is Shawna Cokley of NWS? Maybe that was your problem, try watching the guys that live here and know whats going on.

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