Snow, sleet fall across central NC; most schools closed

Posted January 28, 2014 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2014 6:35 a.m. EST

— Central North Carolina was blanketed with sleet and snow Tuesday evening as a highly anticipated winter storm swept across the area.

Most area school systems, including Wake, Durham, Cumberland, Orange, Johnston and Chapel Hill-Carrboro, will be closed Wednesday due to slick roads.

The Triangle anticipated 3 to 6 inches of snow, with heavier totals north and east of Raleigh. Tarboro received the most snow as of 11 p.m. Tuesday with 3 inches. Rocky Mount and Garner received 2 inches while Raleigh had just under an inch Tuesday night.

“It’s been an interesting snow,” WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said. “It’s been fine, light and powdery, which is what we’re not used to. We’re used to seeing big fat flakes.”

The snow storm moved from west to east, with the biggest snow totals expected around Elizabeth City. Areas around Edgecombe and Nash counties are also expected to get plenty of snow.

“Those regions have the best chance of ending with a foot of snow,” WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

Significant icing was expected for Wilmington and much of the coast. Fayetteville received freezing rain and sleet until 10 p.m. when colder temperatures turned the precipitation to snow.

The snow began moving out of the Triangle by about 2 a.m. Wednesday, but flurries could continue to fall across the area through the early morning hours. 

A winter storm warning from the National Weather Service is in effect for much of central and eastern North Carolina until midday Wednesday.

Wednesday’s weather will be a mix of sun and clouds with temperatures reaching the upper 20s.

Snow accumulation

Light snow was first reported in Fayetteville, Goldsboro and Roxboro just before 5 p.m. Flurries were seen in Wake County at about 5:30 p.m.

Some viewers were antsy prior to the snow’s arrival and took to social media, wondering aloud when the snow would be on its way.

"The arctic air that moved in overnight with the gusty winds was a bit drier than we anticipated,” WRAL meteorologist Nate Johnson said during a WRAL weather chat Tuesday evening. “The atmosphere had to first moisten up, but now that it's done that, we're seeing the flakes make it all the way down to the ground.”

The snow didn’t reach the 1-inch mark in Cary Tuesday night as maintenance crews spread brine, salt and sand across the main roads.

"Our crews are out there working hard, and things are going according to plan so far," Cary Public Works Director Scott Hecht said in a statement.

Only about a half-inch fell at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, where most flights scheduled to depart before 8 a.m. Wednesday were cancelled. Runways and taxiways were open and operating with no reported issues Tuesday night as nearly 100 airport workers were ready to clear snow and treat roadways.

Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm and lifted restrictions on heavy trucks so they can deliver needed supplies. Some National Guard units were activated and were ready to go, officials said. Some counties and towns, including Fayetteville and Halifax County, declared their own state of emergency.

Over 1,500 customers were without power in Raleigh off Creedmoor Road near Interstate 540 Tuesday night. About 900 customers in Halifax County were also without power.

Slick roads

Northbound lanes of Interstate 95 were shut down for two hours north of Fayetteville Tuesday night after a tractor-trailer jackknifed near Wade-Stedman Road. Moments later, an emergency vehicle responding to the accident crashed and overturned.

Multiple accidents were reported on Interstate 40 between Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Cary, according to the state Highway Patrol. A few wrecks were also reported on Interstate 540.

Area municipalities reported few accidents, including two in Cary and one in Morrisville that took out a stop sign at Morrisville Parkway and Sarazen Meadow Way. Raleigh officials reported “extremely light traffic” and no major accidents.

Coastal areas reported problems from heavier snowfall. Onslow County imposed a curfew until at least 9 a.m. Wednesday.

"The roads are now very bad, and virtually every bridge is worse," Brian Kramer, Pine Knoll Shores town manager, said in a statement. "Though the NCDOT is saying they will keep bridges open throughout the storm, I would advise staying away."

There were multiple car wrecks on the Beaufort high-rise bridge and the Carteret County-Swansboro Bridge that stopped traffic for hours, Kramer said.

Dozens of state Department of Transportation trucks from the western and Triad areas were loaded with salt and sand and heading to the eastern parts of the state to help with the winter response.