Freezing temps raise questions for Thursday's commute

Posted December 14, 2010 3:43 p.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2010 5:33 a.m. EST

— With temperatures hovering around the freezing mark in the Triangle, the forecast of "light snow, sleet and freezing rain" on Thursday raises questions for commuters.

WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said such a long cold spell is unusual in this area in December.

"Because it's so cold and the ground's so cold, it won't take a lot of precipitation to cause problems on the road Thursday morning," said WRAL meteorologist Nate Johnson.

The "bitter cold" is expected to continue Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning, but Wednesday should be less windy with a high of 38.

North Carolina Dept. of Transportation crews are gearing up for the possibility of icy conditions. They started laying a pre-treatment brine solution -- a mixture of water and salt -- to Interstate 40 and Interstate 440 Tuesday.

"In an ideal world, when the snow does come in, and we have the brine applied to the roadways, when traffic and everything starts to melt that snow, it'll keep the ice that would ultimately form... from bonding to the pavement," said Steve Halsey, a DOT engineer.

For road crews and others who work outdoors -- from baggage handlers at the airport to construction workers -- Tuesday's chill was all in a day's work.

James Maye and Keith Mosley, public works supervisors for the city of Durham, bundle up to fight the cold, but there's only so much they can do to stay warm and dry.

Their crew is tasked with making the brine solution that is used to keep ice from forming on the roads.

Maye said the city provides hats to keep workers warm, and Mosley said working in the equivalent of an icebox doesn't bother him.

"We do it every year, no matter how cold it gets. We've got a job to do," he said.

Michael Notte, manager of Bunkey's car wash in Durham, said it's tough washing cars in this weather, but business is good as people get ready to travel for the holidays.

"The wind, when it picks up, and having to handle the wet towels and being around the water ... It's a little disheartening, but you know, it's good. Business is good, you know, if we are washing cars, we are happy," Notte said.

Friday will be mainly cloudy with some spotty light rain or drizzle and a high of 43 degrees.

Saturday will be cloudy and chilly at 40 degrees with a possibility of some rain or snow.

Sunday will be partly cloudy, breezy and cold with a high of 39 degrees.

Log on to Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. to chat LIVE with the Channel 5 weather team.