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Winter Weather Hits Triangle, NC

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RALEIGH — A southern snow storm, which has already left its mark in Georgia and South Carolina, has made its way to the Tar Heel state.

Snow is falling throughout the WRAL-TV viewing area. The snow is sticking on the roads in some areas as there are reports of multiple accidents along Interstate 40, so it is important for drivers to stay alert.

The Forecast:

The National Weather Service warned Wednesday that a winter storm bearing down on North Carolina would concentrate on central and eastern areas before moving offshore by Thursday night.

Winter storm warnings remain in effect for central North Carolina, which includes much of the WRAL viewing area.

A low pressure system moving into the state from the Gulf of Mexico was expected to collide with cold air hanging over the region.

"It looks like at this time some of the heavier snowfall will be from Wake County to the north and to the east," tentatively leaving from 4 to 8 inches in the area, said Gail Hartfield, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Raleigh.

Collections of snow-laden clouds only a couple dozen miles wide could dump up to 12 inches in isolated parts of the same area, she said.

Concentric circles of predicted storm activity surrounded the core. Three to 6 inches was expected in Greenville, Fayetteville, Clinton, Burlington and Greensboro, she said. One to 3 inches of snow could fall in Winston-Salem and other foothills cities, 2 inches in Asheville and the mountains, and as much as an inch in mainland areas of coastal Dare County.

Snowfall moved first into the Charlotte area Wednesday afternoon, and was expected to leave up to 5 inches by the time the snow ends Thursday afternoon, the weather service said. Snow spread by dusk into Fayetteville and the Sandhills and by early evening into the Raleigh-Durham area.

Wilmington reported light freezing rain that's expected to turn over to rain late Wednesday but become snow and sleet Thursday.

Preparing for the Storm:

Just mention the word snow and there is a frenzy to get to the grocery store.

Some stores report that they are are already out of essentials in the Raleigh area as residents prepare for the new year's first winter blast.

A manager at a Super KMart in Garner says it hs been tough to keep shelves filled because customers are worried about being stranded at home with nothing to eat.

The rush began on milk, bread and eggs -- even bottled water -- as soon as forecasters began talking Monday about snow.

Sleds, shovels, salt and other and de-icing products are also in high demand.

Officials at CP&L are looking at the upcoming storm as a good drill for its crews because it does not believe this storm will be the kind of weather event that will have them chasing downed power lines at all hours of the day and night.

"This is mostly going to be snow, and for a utility company, that's good news because what really causes problems for us are when you get that ice accumulation on tree limbs and power lines, so some white, fluffy snow with some wind to keep it off the trees, we should be in pretty good shape," said CP&L spokesman Keith Poston.

Closings and Delays:

If you are flying south Wednesday or Thursday, officials at

RDU International

suggest calling your airline about possible delays or cancellations.

Even a few inches of snow can keep kids home from school.

Many schools in the WRAL-TV viewing area have cancelled Thursday classes for students and staff.

Fort Bragg is putting all activities on post on a two-hour delay Thursday.

The public schools say they will make the call no later than 5 a.m. Thursday, but as they study weather reports, the National Weather Service forecasts and talk to state and local police about possible road conditions, they will make their plans known as soon as possible.

Road Conditions:

The N.C. Department of Transportation says that it is ahead of the storm. By noon Wednesday, DOT trucks were spraying some bridges and overpasses with a calcium-chloride mixture.

Along with the deep freeze, a state hiring freeze could impact the DOT's cleanup efforts. In Wake County alone, the DOT has 15 fewer snow plow drivers than it did in Jan. 2000, when the Triangle was buried under more than 20 inches of snow.

DOT Engineer Jerry Linder said that some of the DOT drivers who will be out on the road have little or no snow plowing experience.

Meanwhile, the state Highway Patrol is asking drivers to stay off the roads when snow does fall.

For those who cannot, or will not stay home, the patrol says extra care should be taken.

Sergeant R.V. West says drivers should be sure their car batteries are charged, that the engines will stay cranked and that tires have a good tread.

Drivers also must increase their following distance behind other cars and drive below the speed limit.

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