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Black ice likely Wednesday morning, drivers urged to stay home

Posted January 11, 2011
Updated January 12, 2011

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— Most major highways in central North Carolina had been cleared of snow and ice by midday Tuesday, but dropping temperatures after nightfall threatened to refreeze moisture on the ground, upping the chance for black ice.

Secondary roads also remained a challenge because they aren't as likely to be treated with brine and salt that helps melt ice from roads. 

Jason Holmes, director of operations for the Wake County division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, said, "Interstates are relatively clear. They are passable. We are working on some major N.C. routes and then will turn our attention to secondary roads."

Threat of black ice continues Wednesday morning Threat of black ice continues Wednesday morning

Slick, slushy roads made for tough traveling conditions across the Triangle Tuesday morning, and a repeat was expected Wednesday after another night of temperatures in the 20s.

"We could have a hard freeze (Tuesday night) that makes it dangerous to drive again in the morning," said WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze.

"There is a lot of potential for black ice in the morning hours," Holmes said. "There's no reason to be out on the roads (Wednesday) morning in these conditions."

The state Highway Patrol responded to almost 1,000 calls Tuesday morning and expected similar numbers Wednesday morning. Trooper Matt Young said the safest bet is to avoid the morning commute altogether.

"Our advice is to stay off the roads," Young said. "If you have to get on the roads, take it easy, drive slow, take your time and plan ahead."

Hoke County snow picture Snow coats some NC roads

Icy roads cause fender benders, two fatalities

The state Highway Patrol responded to more than 2,570 calls Monday after about 6 inches of snow fell in southern counties and freezing rain caused icy patches on Triangle roads, according to the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

Drivers slipped and slid across the roads of central North Carolina, but most wrecks did not result in serious injuries. Two drivers died on the slick roads.

In Roxboro, Kirk Tyler Brothers, 25, lost control on Wrenn-Crumpton Road, struck a tree and overturned around 8:15 p.m. Monday, according to authorities. His passenger was injured but was expected to live.

In Lenoir County, Paula Grant Woolard, 32, of Caroline Nicole Drive in Kinston, slid off Pauls Path Road near LaGrange and struck a tree, according to the Highway Patrol. She died on impact. The 2-year-old child in her vehicle was not injured.

On Ellis Road in Durham, not far from N.C. Highway 147, several drivers slid off the frozen road, which they described as looking like an ice rink. 

Alejandro Horton's wife was one of the unlucky drivers who ended up in a ditch on the side of the road.

“She called me screaming that she cannot control the car and she was sliding down,” Horton said.

Edwards Mill Road behind Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh also proved challenging for many drivers. Some said they were stuck on the hill for hours.

"The roads out there look good. That's what I based it on," said Craig Baldwin, who was trying to deliver produce to a nearby restaurant. "We're not going to deliver to them (Tuesday). They'll get it (Wednesday), I guess. Hopefully, I won't be delivering up here."

Troopers closed part of Interstate 95 early Tuesday after several crashes in the same area. The most serious crash involved a tractor-trailer that wiped out on the Neuse River Bridge on Interstate 95 near Smithfield.

Rontavious Lewis, 20, of Georgia, was driving too fast on the icy highway, lost control and mowed down 300 feet of guard rail in the median, according to troopers. The cab of the truck popped off with Lewis and two passengers – Marvin Reese, 58, and John Trewitt, 20, both of Georgia – inside.

The men, who work for a moving company, were taken to a local hospital. They did not suffer serious injuries, but Reese had injuries to his face, authorities said.

Troopers charged Lewis with reckless driving.

Farther north on I-95, Lindsey Christenbury hit a patch of ice while on her way to work in Roanoke Rapids and rolled her Ford Bronco several times, crashing down a hill and ending up overturned.

"What's running through my head is I'm scared my truck's going to blow up. You see it in movies all the time," Christenbury said. "So I immediately call rescue to come get me, and before they get there, I've already kicked out the window to my vehicle and gotten out."

She escaped uninjured.

"Now, I just kind of have to wait because this was my only transportation, but we'll figure something out," she said.

A tractor-trailer driver crashed on Interstate 85 near exit 182, Red Mill Road, in Durham County Tuesday morning.

The driver, Leon Popa of Pennsylvania, was driving too fast, crashed through a guardrail and into a tree, according to troopers. He suffered injuries to his left arm and was taken to Duke University Hospital, troopers said.

"It's really bad. It's really bad. I'm just creeping now trying to make it back to the house," driver Robert Allen said.

Another tractor-trailer had trouble Tuesday morning as it became stuck at the intersection of Walker and Chatham streets in Cary and blocked two lanes of traffic.

Perdue praises DOT efforts

Gov. Beverly Perdue praised the DOT's preparation and clearing efforts but noted the cost.

The state budgeted $30 million for storm response in fiscal year 2010-11 and has spent $26 million so far, she said.

Threat of black ice continues Wednesday morning Threat of black ice continues Wednesday morning

"If you could do anything for the state, you can pray hard that we get warm weather for the rest of the winter," she said.

Holmes said brine spread before the wintry mix fell gave crews a head start, preventing some ice from bonding to the road surface.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," the governor said.

She declared a state of emergency for the entire state Monday, long before any precipitation fell in Raleigh. "That helps some workers and businesses make their decisions," she explained Tuesday.

While hundreds of businesses were closed Tuesday, DOT crews were putting in 24-hour shifts and would be on standby again for Wednesday, Holmes said. 

Perdue said she was comfortable knowing that mature, highly-trained workers were on the job. "They will tell us if they've had enough," she said. "Our people make good health and safety decisions for themselves. 

Waiting for the warm-up

On Tuesday, the DOT was using salt to melt icy spots and sand to create traction where ice had accumulated.

Perdue asked the traveling public to stay off the roads to allow the DOT to finish its work.

"If you have any choice at all, stay home until it warms up a bit," she said.

Holmes said he hoped sun and evaporation would dry most roads by Wednesday afternoon.

The skies clear up for the rest of the week, Maze said, but blustery conditions Wednesday will make it feel like it is only in the 20s. A gradual warm-up completes the week, with the daytime highs reaching almost 50 degrees by Sunday. 

271 Comments

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  • WooHoo2You Jan 11, 2011

    I had to dodge some brine lines the other day. Wasn't paying attention, looked up, saw white lines, thought it was ice. It happens buddy!-The weather chief needs a tissue

    That must have been BEFORE the ice to see the "lines." making up stuff I see or just a poor driver?

  • passport423 Jan 11, 2011

    To "theartistformerlyknownasspeedy": I tried to tell them around 1 p.m. about brine being pretreatment which allows easier removal of ice and snow later. They just don't want to hear it. Reminds me of the saying "There are none so blind as those who refuse to see". (Then again, they're probably just trolling and I rose to the bait yet again.)

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Jan 11, 2011

    Snowfreak, are you a first year teacher? ;c )

    The fog has rolled in and it is thick as a soup sandwich. A drizzle like substance is falling. It is covering things and freezing on contact. Nothing anywhere I've been today melted at all. There will be no school tomorrow so stay up late snowfreak. Heck, the Fish even said we might see flurrs tomorrow. After all this freezing drizz, that would have to top off his week after missing a 2nd good snow in less than a month.

    By an inch!

  • Sherlock Jan 11, 2011

    Really Great the gover' goes out risking the lives of her drivers and others to do what a phone call would do. This is real leadership, she needs to be replaced NOW before she hurts someone.

  • seankelly15 Jan 11, 2011

    lma1973 AKA the Weather Chief Needs a Tissue - "A lot of folks are swerving from the brine. They act as if its some kind of ice. It accounted for no less than 2 accidents on the road last month during rush hour traffic."

    You just make stuff up. It is one thing to offer an opinion, it is quite another to lie.

  • lovetorescue Jan 11, 2011

    If the governor wants people to stay off the roads then why doesn't she close the state agencies??

  • snowfreak Jan 11, 2011

    rescuefan- I see where your coming from, at this moment tell me if you think they will close with things how they are looking now with icy back roads and a winter weather advisory until 11am tomorrow morning

  • shortcake53 Jan 11, 2011

    Bev tell us all to stay home off the roads, but WCPPS says put your kids at the corner so we can take them out on roads not fit for adults. How does that even make sense??

  • seankelly15 Jan 11, 2011

    The weather chief needs a tissue - "We've spent 26 million for 5 non-events and 1 real event"

    But you have been stating that 30 million has been spent... now you say 26 million of a 30 million dollar budget. So, your statement then was incorrect which makes your statement now quite suspect.

  • snowfreak Jan 11, 2011

    deliah I agree with you, the roads are too dangerous WCPSS is ridiculous

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