Road conditions turn icy as temperatures plummet

Posted February 1, 2010
Updated October 18, 2011

— Plows have been working to clear highways after a winter storm dumped snow and ice on North Carolina. Despite some thawing Sunday, overnight's freezing temperatures caused black ice to form on roadways Monday morning.

“As you head out Monday morning, temperatures are still going to be in the teens, so black ice will be an issue,” WRAL meteorologist Kim Deaner said.

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.

Raleigh police: If you must go, drive slow Raleigh police: If you must go, drive slow

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for most of central North Carolina, including the Triangle and Sandhills.

The DOT urged motorists to stay off the roads Monday morning so that workers can continue to clear the snow, sleet and ice that fell over 24 hours across the state.

State Department of Transportation engineer Jason Holmes said the combination of precipitation that packed on the roadways will make it "very difficult to get that to break loose from the pavement."

Wake County road crews spent Sunday focusing their attention on Interstate 40, Interstate 440 and Interstate 540, and they worked on portions of U.S. Highway 1, U.S. Highway 64 and U.S. Highway 264. They have barely touched secondary roads, DOT spokesman Steve Halsey said.

"It could be several days before we get the interstates cleared up and go onto our secondary routes," Holmes added. "There is potential of a lot of dangerous situations, even Monday morning."

Raleigh Streets Superintendent Chris McGee also urged motorists to be careful.

“In the morning, all those wet spots will be black ice,” he said.

Road crews prepare for icy roads Road crews prepare for icy roads

DOT engineer Ashley Pilkington said Sunday with the threat of black ice looming, crews will be working overnight to respond to emergencies.

“Whenever we get calls, we will put a salt sand mixture on it, but it's going be a lot of locations overnight,” Pilkington said.

Raleigh road crews were clearing and salting bridges across the city, followed by major thoroughfares and Capital Area Transit routes. After that, the city will begin clearing major residential and connector streets, officials said.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell advised motorists not to be lulled into a false sense of security by Sunday's bright sun and melting snow.

"These roads are tough. They are icy," Bizzell said. "They’re treacherous. Talk about slip-sliding away, you can do it."

If you must drive, follow these tips

Fayetteville resident Mark Jivey spent Sunday shoveling about an inch of ice off his driveway, but he and others weren't sure when local side streets would be cleared.

"It was snowing. Then it changed to sleet, then changed to rain, then back to sleet," Jivey said.

Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency, activating government resources statewide to help in the aftermath of a winter storm. The declaration is the first step to seeing federal funds to help with any clean-up and repair required.

“It’s important that we're all safe and stay home,” Perdue said.

Motorists can get travel conditions 24 hours a day for major state highways by dialing 511.

The slick roads have already caused about 2,700 wrecks across the state between early Saturday and mid-afternoon Sunday, according to the state Highway Patrol.

Cars were sliding off the road, into guardrails and each other, troopers said. One car even slammed into a Highway Patrol cruiser that was stopped along Interstate 40 in Johnston County investigating another wreck.

A car hit an icy patch on Craftsman Drive, near Old Wake Forest Road, and slid into a pond Sunday evening, Raleigh police said.

The two people in the car escaped unharmed.

Flights resume at RDU

Raleigh-Durham International Airport was open Sunday and prepared for commercial airline operations, spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said. Due to Saturday's winter storm, about 40 morning flights were canceled, and delays stretched into the afternoon.

"We are seeing a lot more flights take and off land than we were (Saturday)," Hamlin said in a telephone interview. More than 325 flights were canceled on Saturday.

Freezing temps create hassles in Cary Freezing temps create hassles in Cary

RDU officials said it likely will take a couple of days for flight schedules to return to normal, and they advised travelers to contact their airlines before going to the airport to find out the status of their flight.

Some travelers did whatever it took Sunday to get a flight out.

"I was supposed to leave at 8:30 this morning, but then I was bumped to (Monday), and I begged and pleaded to get me there today," said Michael Morton, who said he has a Monday morning business meeting in San Francisco.
Morton was able to arrange an itinerary to get him to California on time: "It's from here to Miami to New Orleans to Phoenix to Dallas to San Francisco."

Hillary Kaell said she was supposed to leave Saturday, but her flight was canceled. That wasn't the worst part of her day, however.

"I got into a car accident when I was sort of side-swiped by a truck, and I landed in a ditch," Kaell said.

She returned to RDU Sunday looking for a way to get to Canada.

"I have my first job interview on Monday. I have been training for a number of years to be a professor, and this is my shot. I have to be there at 8 a.m. for the interview," she said.

Some travelers have been stranded at the airport since the storm started.

"We got here Friday night. We had a flight, and it got canceled. Then, they scheduled us for Saturday morning, and that got canceled and Saturday afternoon and that got canceled. Then, this morning at 6 o'clock, and that got canceled," Lisa Shanks said.

For those who showed up for their flights only to see delays, the wait was exacerbated by the lack of airport services.

“So I was there at noon for a 3:40 flight, and there's no food,” Gil Gilbert said. “That flight was canceled, so now it's a 5:50 flight. You got a lot people up there. These are like caged animals up there, you know, looking for something to chew on."

Hamlin suggested that travelers ask for flexibility in re-scheduling. "Some airlines, during inclement weather, will allow some flexibility for passengers, allowing them to make changes to their travel plans without penalty."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • time4real Feb 1, 2010

    Tahiti French Polynesia!

  • Journey985 Feb 1, 2010

    Drove in from Apex to RTP on Hwy 55, the road was fine until I crossed into Durham County, and then it went to garbage (thats being nice for Golo) Hwy 54 was a sheet of ice as well as Davis Drive. Durham Co. needs to get on the ball and start getting those roads cleared!! How about WRAL getting the forecast right on time4real enjoyed his plate of crow over the weekend!!!

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Feb 1, 2010

    Where is Time4Real?

  • Bendal1 Feb 1, 2010

    This is the way it always is; NC doesn't have as much snow removal equipment as northern states do, so they concentrate on the heaviest used roads and leave the secondary/neighborhood roads for later. I've lived here over 25 years and every snow has been like this, so those of you griping that "DOT should have done something about MY road", get over it. Except in really unusual circumstances, snow that falls here melts off the road within a few days, even on the secondary routes.

  • Havyn08 Feb 1, 2010

    Haha DbzHugz, things DO work out sometimes, don't they? I hope you called him a rude yankee as you drove by!

  • DbzHugz Feb 1, 2010

    I just drove from Clayton area to Wake Forest. I traveled Garner Rd, Auburn Knightdale Rd, Grasshopper Road, Bethlehem Road, Old Knight Road, Forestville Rd. and Burlington Mills Rd. All of those roads, with the exception of Burlington Mills, were in terrible shape. Ice on top of ice on top of packed down ice. If I didn't have to be at work, I would have certainly stayed off the road. It took me a bit over 2 hours for the trip, twice the usual time. Unfortunately, there were a few on the road that tried to tailgate, beeped and tried to make others go faster. One of those "nice" honking tailgaters passed 2 of us, he was driving irresponsibly, and basicly acting like a jerk...yelling out the window about "stupid" southern drivers. Oddly enough, then we passed him in a ditch not a mile down the road. He was okay though...sitting there on his hood waiting on a tow truck. Karma I guess. Everyone be safe please.

  • One Good Dad Feb 1, 2010

    It's ashame that Bev Perdue has parked more that half of the road scraping trucks to try and save a dollar. When actually she will cost the state millions of tax dollars because of people not being able to go to work or go shopping. Or maybe she is on another out of the country vacation this week where it's warm.

  • BRASH_IRISH Feb 1, 2010

    It's great to hear that the Road Crews have worked for the past 3 days minimum, actually 5 if you count the wasted time using all of the brine solution. Give me a break!!! The county has wasted not only time but lots of money in covering these main routes over and over. What about the secondary streets? How is anyone supposed to be able to get to the main routes without the secondary routes cleared. And now, being that people have driven over and compacted the snow/ice mixture down, we are faced with even worse conditions and more extreme work to be done by the road crews. Once again, things are being down the True Southern Way, Bass Ackwards!!!!

  • Bendal1 Feb 1, 2010


    WRAL was saying the Raleigh area could get "up to" a foot of snow, with a lower value around 5", just like the NOAA predictions. Seeing as how the official snowfall depth was 7" they hit it right on target. Nice to see you're hard at work revising history though.

  • time4real Feb 1, 2010

    wral is now 1 for 7 this winter and I say YEAH! Of course, it wasn't the 12-15"+ that was being called for Friday evening, but hey, it counts right. Didn't get near 12 last night as they said, so not sure why they were so off there, but today is slack day. Enjoy it today for the Ground Hog doesn't see his shadow tomorrow and winter is officially over. As for any chances of future flakes, only if you stop using Head & Shoulders will that occur. Happy Spring evr'body!