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Black ice possible overnight

Posted December 19, 2009

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— As the rain – whether freezing or merely cold – cleared out of central and eastern North Carolina, the threat of black ice loomed.

Black ice is the term for thin, clear ice that forms over black road surfaces as melting water flows across them and temperatures sink back below 32 degrees. It can be nearly impossible for drivers to see.

“We are going to drop into the 20s overnight, so bridges and overpasses are going to be the biggest problem. If you saw snow Friday, the roads could also be a problem north and west of the Triangle,” WRAL meteorologist Kim Deaner said.

DOT crews prepare roads for black ice DOT crews prepare roads for black ice

Temperatures remained close to freezing during the day on Saturday in much of the central counties, while some southern counties got up into the upper 30s. A cold breeze blew up to 20 mph.

By Saturday evening, 48-hour rainfall totals had reached 0.90 inches in Raleigh. Fayetteville had gotten 0.48 inches of rain and Rocky Mount saw 0.59 inches, while Goldsboro had received 0.57 inches.

DOT crews spread salt and sand on roadways Saturday in preparation that any moisture left behind could freeze overnight.

“Black ice is treacherous for the traveling public, so that's why we have our crews out with salt and sand mixtures to spread on these locations for traction, so it will be safe,” DOT engineer Ashley Pilkington said.

Pilkington said drives should also look out for slippery conditions early Sunday.

"That is normally the time when temperatures are at its lowest. That is when everything's going to tighten up and freeze, and that is where we are going to concentrate most of our efforts," Pilkington added.

Postal worker Warnetta Harrison said despite the possibility of black ice, she will have to drive Sunday morning.

“The post office is supposed to run whether snow, sleet, whatever it is. And if I have to use a bicycle, or something, I’ll be there,” she said.

The Highway Patrol offered this advice for drivers navigating slick roads.

  • 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.
  • Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles.
  • 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.

Sunday and Monday will be sunny but cold, with temperatures in the upper 30s and lower 40s.

“We will still be on the chilly side as all of that colder air out of Canada lingers over central North Carolina,” Deaner said.

The work weeks starts off cool with rain possible on Thursday and Friday.

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