Raleigh, N.C. — Wet roads left behind by the quick-moving storm system that brought rain and snow to the Triangle were causing major problems Friday morning as temperatures moved closer to freezing during the morning commute.
Road conditions in Durham, Orange, Person and Granville counties – the areas that saw the most snow accumulation – were slick at 8 a.m., with dozens of fender benders and minor wrecks having been reported. Roadways were also slick in northwest Wake County, with several wrecks being reported on Interstate 440 and Interstate 540.
As skies cleared from west to east early Friday, temperatures dropped from the mid-30s to near freezing or even below in spots, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.
Deputy Paul Sherwin, a public information officer with the Durham County Sheriff's Office, said deputies in Durham County have been dealing wrecks all over the county.
"We've had them on the interstate, we've had them on surface streets," Sherwin said. "About the time that some of the early morning commuters got out, about 6:30 or 7 a.m., our phones started lighting up."
State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Gordon said troopers saw some black ice early Friday.
"Any time you have to travel and you will be going over bridges and overpasses use extra caution," Gordon said. "Slow your speed down. If you have the opportunity and ability to delay going into work, go ahead and do that."
No serious crashes have been reported, but authorities are asking drivers to stay off the roads if possible. Wet roads were partly to blame for two crashes within minutes of each other on South Saunders Street in Raleigh Thursday evening, involving nine cars total. One person was hospitalized with minor injuries, authorities said.
Conditions on the roads should begin improving by mid-morning Friday as temperatures begin climbing through the 30s and the sun gets higher in the sky, Gardner said.
One to two inches of snow piled up in most parts of the Triangle overnight, with some spots in northern counties seeing closer to 4 inches before the storm tracked off the North Carolina coast overnight, Gardner said.
"We saw just about what we expected," Gardner said. "Spots in and around Roxboro saw about 4 inches, but much of Wake County, which was one of those border counties, only saw a dusting in most spots."
Rain fell throughout the day Thursday, switching to sleet and snow around 8 p.m. in counties north and west of the Triangle and about 9 p.m. in Durham and Chapel Hill. Snow was falling sporadically around Raleigh, and northern parts of Wake County were blanketed in white.
With more than 4 inches of snow, Person County was the hardest hit.
The white stuff isn't expected to last long once the sun rises and the ground warms up on Friday morning. Highs Friday afternoon should top out in the mid-40s.
Many school systems, including Wake, Chatham, Halifax, Warren and Moore counties, decided to delay classes for two hours Friday morning in preparation for the slick conditions.
Durham, Vance, Person, Orange, Franklin and Granville County schools will be closed entirely.
Magellan Charter School in Raleigh posted a one-hour delay and Louisburg College will open at 10 a.m.
Fort Bragg will have a two-hour delay Friday, and the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro will be closed to the public.
State Department of Transportation crews hit the roads around 10 p.m. Thursday to spread salt and sand on any problem spots. Crews are also outfitted with plows and spreaders to clear roadways.
"When the temperatures get below freezing, bridges and overpasses are going to be the first thing to freeze if we have any moisture," said Wake County maintenance engineer Steve Halsey. "Our guys are going to be focusing on the main roads, mostly the freeways – I-40, 440, 540 – and the secondary roads that may have some bridges, we probably will not have done anything to those roads."
NCDOT doesn't pre-treat roads in a situation like this, because anything they spread to prevent freezing would simply wash away in the rain.
In Raleigh, city spokeswoman Jayne Kirkpatrick said some workers have been advised that they might be called in to help clear streets for Friday traffic.
In Cary, town officials reduced their "A-Team" staff after the area didn't see much accumulation, saying they had people ready to treat slick roads in time for the morning commute.
“While we’re fortunate to have dodged any plowing efforts, the roads remain wet and have the potential to be slick as temperatures teeter around freezing,” Cary Public Works Director Scott Hecht said.
The National Weather Service canceled a winter storm warning for Wake, Durham, Chatham, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Orange, Person, Nash, Lee, Moore, Vance, Warren and several other central North Carolina counties about 2:30 a.m.
Harnett, Johnston, Wilson, Wayne and Edgecombe counties were a few of several other North Carolina counties under a winter weather advisory, which was also canceled by the weather service overnight.