Raleigh, N.C. — The third winter weather to hit North Carolina in as many weeks had caused at least 600 wrecks by late Saturday afternoon, the state Highway Patrol said.
Although most wrecks were not severe, troopers said the rate of wrecks on highways picked up Saturday morning. Ice caused a tractor-trailer and four other vehicles to wreck on Interstate 95 in Cumberland County. (Need to drive? Follow this advice ...)
Between an inch and 2 inches of snow wettened roads in the Triangle, but conditions worsened to the south and east, where more snow fell Saturday.
Between 4 and 6 inches of snow fell in eastern North Carolina, from Wayne and Sampson counties to Wilmington.
An icy patch on the I-95 bridge over N.C. Highway 87 first caused a Chevrolet Equinox to run off the road, state troopers said. Troopers said a Merita Bread truck then also hit the ice, and a Chevrolet Tahoe struck the rear of the tractor-trailer.
"I saw that I was going to die. I said, 'Oh my God, I'm going to leave my kids,'" the Tahoe driver, 39-year-old Natacha Fabien, said.
The 18-wheeler plowed through the guardrail of the median and down the embankment into a wooded area.
The fiancee of the Equinox driver, who was following, stopped to help, troopers said. While his vehicle was parked on the shoulder, a fifth vehicle struck it.
Northbound traffic was re-routed onto exit and entrance ramps after the wreck.
Fabien and the tractor-trailer driver, Tyrone Whitley, 52, of , were taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. They were both treated and released.
Fabien, who is a nurse, said the roads looked clear as she was driving from Hope Mills to work in Raleigh.
"I didn't think I was going to have an accident, because I felt like I was driving safe, and the road was clear for me,” she said.
Trooper Jeremy Brewington said the crash is a reminder that people need to be extra careful when driving in wintry conditions.
"The roads were clear, but the bridge was iced over,” he said.
Elsewhere in the state, state troopers said they responded to 284 wrecks in a 14-county region surrounding Raleigh Saturday. Totals from the state Highway Patrol for other regions weren't available.
Authorities in New Hanover County, which got at least 4 inches of snow, said they responded to 13 wrecks and about 20 other calls for motorist assistance Saturday. The Myrtle Grove and River roads areas were particularly dangerous, and the roads were impassable in places, authorities said.
Burlington police are investigating whether a fatal wreck shortly before 2 a.m. was weather related. A vehicle ran off Chapel Hill Road, near Maple Avenue, and struck a tree.
Police said a passenger, Charles Reynolds, of Burlington, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver, Mike Beverly, of Graham, was transported to Alamance Regional Medical Center, then transferred to Duke Medical Center.
Johnston County dispatchers reported wrecks on I-95, also because of icy patches, near the Neuse River bridge, and on N.C. Highway 210, at the Cleveland Road bridge. About three dozen wrecks had been reported in the county Saturday morning.
A slick spot on a bridge caused two wrecks and several near-misses on U.S. 1 South, at Tryon Road in Cary, around 6:15 a.m. Southbound lanes of U.S. 1 were temporarily closed, and trucks were called out to spread salt and sand.
Franklin County dispatchers said that a slick spot also likely caused a vehicle to overturn in the 1100 block of Sid Mitchell Road in Youngsville.
Other forms of transit did not experience many problems. Despite a few cancellations, most flights departed on time from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and Triangle Transit and Capital Area Transit buses ran as usual.