Local News

Wintry Mix Expected for Thursday Commute

Posted January 17, 2007 12:50 a.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2007 11:43 p.m. EST

— Winter weather advisories have been issued for the Triangle area, as meteorologists predicted a frozen wintry mix of precipitation would cross central North Carolina early Thursday morning.

A cold front that made its way into the state Tuesday dropped temperatures and led the way for cold air that will be present for several days. Forecasters were watching for developments Wednesday night. Increasing moisture in the atmosphere and temperatures in the mid to upper 20's could be troublesome.

The Triangle may see a mixture of freezing rain and snow Thursday morning before the system moves to the north Thursday afternoon. The freezing rain potential should last until about lunchtime, then rain will continue through the afternoon.

The National Weather Service issued Winter Weather Advisories that will be in effect through noon. The advisories covered 68 of the state's 100 counties by 11 p.m.

WRAL WeatherScope predicts that the light, mixed precipitation will begin between 7 and 9 a.m. Special WRAL WeatherCenter coverage is scheduled to begin at 4:30 a.m. to show weather and road conditions throughout the area.

Warm ground will prevent anything freezing to the roads, but elevated surfaces could see some light ice buildup if the rain arrives early enough.

North Carolina Department of Transportation crews were pre-treating some primary highways, bridges and overpasses Wednesday afternoon to help keep them from freezing. Elevated roads freeze when they are surrounded by cold air, even if the ground near them doesn't allow freezing.

The DOT primarily uses salt brine, a mixture of water and 23 percent salt that can be applied to road surfaces before a storm to keep ice from bonding to the road. The department has about 300,000 gallons of brine on hand.

It will be North Carolina's first taste of the icy weather that has been making life difficult for people in the Midwest in recent days.

The icy storm blamed for at least 60 deaths in nine states spread snow and freezing rain across Texas all the way to the Mexican border Wednesday, closing the Alamo, glazing freeways and immobilizing communities unaccustomed to such cold.

Accumulations were light by many regions' standards - the Dallas area topped out at a half-inch of snow, and more than 3 inches piled up west of Fort Worth. But hundreds of airline flights were canceled, tens of thousands of electricity customers lost power and a 300-mile stretch of Interstate 10, a major east-west highway that cuts through the state, was closed.

In California, three nights of freezing weather had destroyed up to three-quarters of the state's $1 billion citrus crop, according to an estimate issued Monday. Other crops, including avocados and strawberries, also suffered damage.

WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said the system that has swept across the Midwest won't bring the precipitation to North Carolina. Rather, moisture is being brought in from the south and off the Atlantic Ocean, she said. It will run into cold air from Canada, causing the mixed precipitation.