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Winter Weather Pulls Away From N.C.; Patrol Cautions Motorists

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Residents in central and eastern North Carolina awoke to winter weather the day after Christmas as snow, sleet and freezing rain fell in various parts of the area.

In the Triangle, snow fell in parts of Wake County, with the most snowfall in the southern and eastern parts of the county. By noon, most of the snow had stopped falling in Wake County as the storm pulled northeast.

East of Raleigh, little, if any, snow was reported; Chapel Hill and Durham received no winter weather.

South and east of the Triangle, snow fell steadily throughout the day, with some counties receiving a mix of sleet and freezing rain. Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe counties reported 6 inches or more in some locales.

The weather arrived as people traveled through the state on their way home from the Christmas holidays. An estimated 1.5 million people are expected to travel in the state this week.

The Highway Patrol troop covering 14 central counties received reports of 180 accidents between midnight and about 10 a.m. Sunday, more than five times the normal total during a regular Sunday. Many of them were in Nash and Edgecombe counties along I-95, patrol spokeswoman Patty McQuillan said.

In a weather-related accident, Bruno Ramirez, 47, of Zebulon, was killed when he lost control of his speeding car on an icy road on N.C. Highway 97 in Wake County and overturned shortly after 4 a.m., the patrol said. Ramirez was thrown from the vehicle.

The patrol recommends that people stay off the roads, McQuillan said. Although skies cleared Sunday afternoon, roads could refreeze overnight Sunday, she said.

At 5p.m. Sunday, approximately 9,000 customers were without electric power because of the ice storm that hit Eastern North Carolina Sunday morning. The outages are primarily located in Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson and Scotland counties. These areas are served by Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation, which is headquartered in Red Springs.

The weather didn't keep Raleigh-area malls from opening Sunday morning so shoppers could look for after-holiday bargains.

"We have the die-hard shoppers that are hitting the after-Christmas sales,'' said Pam Shaffer with Triangle Towne Center in north Raleigh. "It looks like they have a lot of bags in their hands.''

Sunday's storm delivered sharply varying amounts of snow and ice. Within a county on the fringe of the storm, forecasters said there was heavy snow, while other parts in the same county received little snow.

Wake County displayed very different ranges of snow totals, with Wendell receiving 2.3 inches and Cary getting only half an inch by 9:45 a.m.

The snow totals were heaviest near I-95, with Wilson County receiving nearly 6 inches of snow just west of Wilson by 10 a.m. Elm City received 5 inches of snow by 10 a.m. By contrast, 5 miles south of Wilson only received 2 inches.

In Johnston County, 2.3 inches of snow fell near Archers Lodge. Nash County, Nashville received 6 inches of snow near highways 97 and 58.

Significant melting of any ice or snow will likely not happen until Monday, when the high is forecast to reach 45 in the Triangle.

Counties right along the coast had only rain during the storm.

The weather service said the snow came from an area of low pressure that developed Saturday night off the coast of North Florida and strengthened as it moved north. Earlier in the week, forecast models had showed the low pressure staying too far off the coast to bring winter weather to large portions of North Carolina.

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