'Travel is treacherous': 1,000 DOT workers trying to clear roads

Posted February 25, 2015
Updated February 26, 2015

— Most of the winter weather has made its way out of central North Carolina, but many of the roads are still dangerous, North Carolina Department of Transportation officials warned Thursday afternoon.

"Travel is treacherous," said DOT Sec. Tony Tata.

About 1,000 DOT workers were on the roads Thursday afternoon and had already used 11,000 tons of salt, 1,700 tons of salt and sand and 1.6 million gallons of brine.

"They've got their routes. They've rehearsed their routes," Tata said. "Crews worked all night long and cleared as much as they could."

State highway patrol officials said the roads are improving, but they are concerned about roads refreezing overnight.

"The road conditions are going to vary widely based on where you are," said WRAL traffic reporter Brian Shrader. "Roads south of the Triangle are much better off because they've seen more rain than snow, but in northern parts of Wake County, Durham county and other points north, roads are treacherous."

"It's dangerous out there. Just stay where you are," Shrader added. "It's mostly north and west of Raleigh where we're seeing the most problems."

DOT crews were out in force at 4 a.m. plowing interstates and primary roads. Downed trees were also an issue because of the heavy, wet snow and mixed precipitation.

"We are getting plenty of calls about trees being down, and we're responding to those now," said Wake County Assistant Maintenance Engineer Jason Dunigan. "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.

The 4900 block of Falls of Neuse Road was shut down in both directions near Millbrook Road in Raleigh due to an overnight crash. A driver hit a power pole, knocking power lines down on the road. The driver's name and condition were not released. Raleigh police did not have an estimated time of when the road would reopen.

The Durham County Sheriff's Office reported trees down Thursday morning in the 5300 block of Leesville Road, the 1400 block of John Jones Road and the 100 block of Pawnee Court and a power line down in the 500 block of Todd Street.

Durham police said roads were "bad all over the city due to snow and trees down." Officers responded to about 30 crashes from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday. Officers also helped 17 stranded drivers during that time.

Eight accidents were reported in Wilson County since midnight, most of which were on Interstate 95. No one was injured.

Raleigh police responded to 41 incidents from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 8 a.m. Thursday, most of which were crashes involving vehicle damage. Multiple crashes were reported across the area overnight, including:

  • Jones Franklin Road in Raleigh
  • Interstate 540 in Raleigh
  • Interstate 40 East in Raleigh near Wade Avenue, at South Saunders Street and near Rock Quarry Road
  • Glenwood and Wade avenues in Raleigh, where a driver was injured after hitting a utility pole
  • The ramp from Interstate 440 West to Interstate 495 was closed due to a vehicle crash
  • N.C. Highway 210 was closed at Plainview Church Road in Johnston County due to a crash
  • U.S. Highway 64 West was closed near N.C. Highway 55 due to a wreck

Outside the Triangle, Interstate 95 in Cumberland County was clear Thursday morning, according to WRAL reporter Gilbert Baez. "No problems with snow or ice," he said.

After 1 to 3 inches of snow fell across the region on Tuesday, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol responded to nearly 3,000 calls for service statewide, including 2,300 vehicle crashes. Troopers then responded to approximately 700 calls for service statewide between midnight and noon Wednesday. About 400 of those calls were for collisions.

The highway patrol typically responds to about 1,000 calls for service in a 24-hour period.

"Some motorists get a false sense of security once they see the roads are clear,” said David Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “They tend to go faster than they should and end up hitting a patch of ice or slush, then find themselves stuck."

DOT crews treated trouble spots Wednesday morning, then spread salt brine on interstate and primary roads in preparation for Wednesday night’s snow. About 80 DOT employees and 50 trucks covered more than 1,400 miles of interstate and primary roads in Wake County, where crews also received about 800 tons of new salt. More than three dozen DOT workers in Durham County reported to work Wednesday afternoon to ensure trucks, supplies and other equipment were ready, the department said.

“Because in North Carolina the DOT maintains a majority of the roads, clearing a significant snowfall is not an easy task,” DOT officials said in a statement. “Wake is the state’s largest county in terms of state-maintained lane miles at more than 5,710. Durham County has close to 1,700 lane miles.”

With last week’s wintry mix and Tuesday’s snow, DOT crews have been busy over the past two weeks.

“Our team has shown incredible fortitude and dedication as we have prepared for and responded to the multiple storms that have hit our state,” said DOT Secretary Tony Tata.

Prior to this week’s storms, town crews in Chapel Hill used 30,000 gallons of brine, 185 tons of salt, 120 tons of sand and 3,000 pounds of ice melt to treat roads. The town will use 10 plow trucks, six salt/sand trucks, four brine trucks and seven motor graders to treat about 350 miles of roads Wednesday night.

In Cary, 19 spreaders, 20 pick-up truck plows and 24 plows were treating the town's 723 miles of streets.

Public transit has already been impacted by the incoming storm:

  • Raleigh's Capital Area Transit will begin bus service at noon Thursday.
  • Triangle Transit will restart service at noon Thursday.
  • Durham Area Transit’s service will restart between 11 a.m. and noon Thursday.
  • Chapel Hill Transit will not restart before 10 a.m. Thursday.
  • Amtrak canceled Thursday service on the Palmetto, which operates between New York City and Savannah, Ga. No alternate transportation will be provided.

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  • Peter Panda Feb 26, 2015
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    yeah-- she drives a snow play roy....or maybe she's just being argumentative.

  • Roy Hinkley Feb 26, 2015
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    maybe Beth drives a snow plow, or she's a LEO, or any number of other professions that do need to be out there today.

  • Peter Panda Feb 26, 2015
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    your 'It's not my fault" comment says it all-- you don't take responsiblity for your decisions...and no matter how important you THINK you are, other will get by without you if you can't drive in such bad weather. What did people do before they met you? Await your arrival?

  • Beth Pearce Feb 26, 2015
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    I'm glad you know my situation! I'm impressed!

    (Strawberry Letter 23)

  • Peter Panda Feb 26, 2015
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    Nonsense that you HAVE TO GET OUT on a morning like this. People like you are why insurance rates are higher than they should be.

  • Beth Pearce Feb 26, 2015
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    Some of us HAVE to get out. Therefore, it should not be our fault! We pay insurance. Insurance pays!!!!

    (Strawberry Letter 23)

  • Mike Casey Feb 26, 2015
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    I just heard that Cary Town Center Mall is going to open 12-5 today. With a "state of emergency" and "treacherous roads" I am curious as to WHO "in their right mind" would make that decision?

  • Peter Panda Feb 26, 2015
    user avatar

    If you go out driving on a morning like this and get into an accident, your insurance company should just tell you, "Too bad!!"