Local News

Storm Tests Raleigh Roads Plan

Posted January 18, 2007 6:51 p.m. EST

— A snow-emergency plan adopted two years ago after a surprise storm paralyzed Raleigh for hours got its first test Thursday, and local officials said it passed.

Roads across Raleigh were gridlocked for hours on Jan. 19, 2005, after a flurry of snowflakes closed businesses and schools in the early after noon and made roads slick. People spent hours in their cars, and hundreds of children spent the night at school because school buses couldn't run.

The public outcry pushed city leaders to form a new road-clearing plan that includes a pre-emptive strike. Trucks spread a salt brine solution on major roads Wednesday before anything fell to help prevent ice from forming.

"Although it wasn't exactly how we thought it'd play out, we did prepare for the worst, and we think the salt brine helped make a difference," Raleigh Street Superintendent Elwood Davis said.

A dozen trucks sprayed salt brine overnight, and the city dispatched about 25 salt trucks Thursday morning to make sure roads stayed clear, Mayor Charles Meeker said.

"We could tell (Thursday) morning the roads that we treated with brine and then the side streets that we had not," Davis said. "So, there was a period of time there that we thought it was really paying off, and then when the temperatures warmed and it started raining, that's the part of the forecast I really liked."

The warmer temperatures were the biggest help in clearing the icy mess from the storm, Davis said.

"The storm two years ago, we didn't have the forecast in advance that something could come that would cause us issues like this time, so (the plan) did work well. We just have to take that as a basis and make sure we err on the side of caution," he said.

Meeker said recent warm temperatures and the fact that the storm came early in the morning made it easier to handle than the storm two years ago.

"The storm, if we had colder ground temperatures, would have been more difficult," he said. "(This storm) came when people could make a choice of when to go to work or whether to go to work as opposed to already being at the office (like in 2005)."

The city roads plan could get another test this weekend, with forecasts calling for the possibility of more winter weather late Sunday.

"I think we got a pretty good test," Meeker said. "We'll be ready again this weekend."