Schools announce early closings ahead of Friday's possible wintry mix

Posted January 24, 2013
Updated January 25, 2013

— The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for most of North Carolina on Thursday as preparations got under way across the state to brace for the possibility of a wintry mix that could snarl Friday's evening commute.

The advisory takes effect at noon Friday in the central region and lasts through midnight for most counties. Eighty of the state's 100 counties were included in the advisory as of 7 p.m.

Schools districts across the region – including Wake, Durham, Orange, Cumberland, Chatham, Lee, Franklin, Person and Johnston counties – announced early closings Friday to give students a chance to get home safely. Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh and Fort Bragg schools were also among the growing list of schools planning to close early in anticipation of bad weather.

State transportation crews spent most of Thursday morning and afternoon pretreating roads with a mixture of salt and water, called brine. A coating of brine helps prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement.

The brining was being done along major roadways in the Triangle, Triad and Greater Charlotte areas, as well as the mountains and foothills of western North Carolina and Interstates 95 and 40 in the eastern part of the state.

Once crews are done brining, officials said, plows and spreaders will be on standby.

"We've been putting salt brine down since yesterday," said Jon Nance with NCDOT. "We'll take a break during rush hour traffic, then we'll continue. We're certainly ready."

Many towns and cities, including Cary, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, were also busy Thursday brining the smaller roads typically not treated by NCDOT. In Knightdale, city employees Reed Alexander and Larry Johnson worked to apply 1,300 gallons of brine and planned to add more if needed. In Chapel Hill, public works teams were paying special attention to bridges, steep hills and bus routes.

The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro said it will close to the public at 1 p.m. Friday. Depending on conditions, the zoo could reopen by noon Saturday.

Officials said the preparations are an effort to avoid a repeat of Jan.19, 2005, when a weather system that was expected to yield only flurries brought just enough snow to snarl traffic, strand 3,000 Wake students overnight at more than 50 schools and produce nightmarish commutes lasting eight or more hours.

On that treacherous night, snow collected on roadways, melted from the heat of exhaust fumes, compacted under the weight of vehicles, then quickly refroze, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

Resident Cindy Mease remembers getting stuck in traffic on her way home from work. She ending up going back to her office, where she slept on the floor.

"It was just a cluster. I mean, it was crazy out there," she said. "(Cars would) hit a hill, and people would just start sliding back down."

The unprecedented gridlock caused local and state officials to revamp their policies for dealing with severe weather. Nance said those improvements have led to better communication and coordination during major weather events. The state now uses social media to communicate with each other and with the public.

"Our information is almost immediately available as we learn things," Nance said.

School districts also have new policies, including releasing students early, Wake school district spokesman Mike Charbonneau said.

"We're going to make sure we put a plan in place so that the buses are rolling while it's still safe and the students are back home before weather becomes an issue," he said.

But all the preparations may prove to be unnecessary. Fishel said there likely won't be much snow.

"Once we get past noon, we'll start to see the precipitation move in from the west," Fishel said. "It may start as snow, but it looks more and more now like we're going to be turning into a sleet and freezing rain scenario as we head through the mid- and late afternoon hours, and on into tomorrow evening."

Winds arrived ahead of the arctic air mass Thursday, with gusts between 20 and 30 mph making daytime highs in the upper 30s feel even colder.

The windchill made it feel like 27 degrees in Raleigh at lunchtime and 23 degrees in Rocky Mount. Along the coast, wind gusts of up to 40 mph prompted the DOT's Ferry Division to suspend the Currituck-Knots Island ferry at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Ferry riders are advised to call ahead to check for weather-related delays through Saturday. Fountain Mountain Cam Cold weather tips

High temperatures will climb to near 40 degrees on Saturday and Sunday under sunny skies, but overnight lows will stay bitterly cold. Sunday's low could dip into the teens.


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  • jllovephillips Jan 24, 2013

    BTW, on your school closings list you said that Nash Rocky Mount schools were on a 2 hour delay...yet we received a call from the school message system that said they will be released 2 hours early. This information conflicts. Which is it? I am sure it isn't both!

  • WakeUpAmerica Jan 24, 2013

    Remember, If its to cold for you, it's to cold for your pets. Hope everyone stays safe.

  • Nancy Jan 24, 2013

    You mean they're spreading BRIME??? lol


    Brime; which can be known as Brime Slime or Brown Mucas
    is a word describing the fluid secreted by the elusive creature Yava. - See definition of 'Yava'

  • atheistswillrule Jan 24, 2013

    I'm glad I don't have to work. No rat race issues for me. I'm just going to sleep late and wake up for a champagne breakfast with a roaring fire in the fireplace and put on Bach for the day.

  • johnny2times Jan 24, 2013

    use common sense when driving and you should be matter the weather

    January 24, 2013 6:29 p.m.

    That's the BIGGEST one uses COMMON SENSE! Everyone is in a hurry...I just laugh at them when I see them spun out on the side of the road...

  • BigSteamnTurd Jan 24, 2013

    Oh man, this is going to be a nightmare. The schools need to be out all day because if this stuff comes in 2 hours sooner, and they said it might, then it will be just like 2005 all over again. Oh what to do, what to do.

  • Whatev333 Jan 24, 2013

    It is not rocket science, people!

    I drove cab for four years in Wisconsin, including days with a quarter inch of ice on the ground. I never had one "at fault" accident... I was rear ended a few times.


    It is really incredibly simple! If it freaks you out that much, just stay home!!!

  • Rebelyell55 Jan 24, 2013

    The outside dog will be in again tonight, got me some "dog cologn" for him. No matter how much I wash him, that dog will find something to wallow in.

  • Rebelyell55 Jan 24, 2013

    January 24, 2013 6:45 p.m................ Yep you got it, since I've driven a lot up north and around here I've seen just as many "accidents" up north due to driving too fast for the conditions. What I've also notice is that the older driver tend to be better at driving in bad weather, so I guess experience is a plus no matter where ya come from. (unless it's somewhere that never get any snow).

  • jblake1932 Jan 24, 2013

    Great, more brime on the road to mess my vehicle up, yuck!!