State News

'Cruel cold' to invade N.C. through weekend

Posted January 15, 2009 5:35 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— A front started to usher in "cruel cold" Thursday night, and below-freezing temperatures could linger through Saturday afternoon, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel predicted.

"We'll end up with about 44, 46 hours of temperatures below freezing. That includes the high temperature tomorrow (Friday). Then we'll struggle to get above freezing Saturday, maybe for only a couple hours," WRAL Meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

"We won't have a chance of getting back to normal until the end of next week," Fishel said.

The National Weather Service issues a wind-chill advisory from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m. Friday for Granville, Vance, Warren, Durham, Franklin, Chatham, Wake, Alamance, Orange and Person counties.

A wind chill advisory means that very cold air and strong winds
will combine, and they can result in frost bite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken, the weather service said.

Thursday hit its high in the low 40s in the early afternoon, and during the lunch hour, people bundled up to stay warm along the Fayetteville Street Mall.

"I'm from New Jersey, so people always say to me, 'This is nothing to you,'" said the operator of Guido's hot dog stand. "But cold is cold, no matter where you're from."

"We trudge through it every day," said Micah Pearce. He and his coworker at the Healing Place, Melvin Glasgow, wore several shirts, jackets and long gloves.

As the sun set, temperatures fell, heading for the teens in much of the state and into the single digits in western counties.

By 10 p.m., the temperature at Asheville had sunk to 14 degrees, and the wind chill made it feel like 1 below zero, the weather service reported.

At Jefferson, northeast of Boone, the thermometer read 9 degrees.

Winds will gust up to 25 mph, making it making it feel like it's in the single digits around the Triangle and close to 0 degrees in the northwest Piedmont – including Orange, Alamance and Person counties – Friday morning.

"(Friday) is going to be the the day we see the coldest air (arrive)," Gardner said. "It's really going to stick with us over the weekend."

On Friday, the forecast high is a frigid 27 degrees, and the temperature could drop to 9 degrees early Saturday – which would break a record low set Jan. 29, 2000.

Temperatures will rise into the 40s Sunday and continue to moderate early next week.

Cold can be dangerous

Such cold weather makes it necessary to keep yourself and your pets healthy and to protect home plumbing and heating systems.

Experts say that residents should at least disconnect any outside hoses.

If pipes break, "Water will get in the house, in the walls. That's not good; it causes a lot of damage to the house," Kilo Krahn, with Roto Rooter, said.

People should also be particularly careful with space heaters, which pose a fire danger: They cause a fifth of home-heating fires and account for 75 percent of deaths from those fires, Raleigh firefighters said.

The homeless are more at risk because prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can result in hypothermia.

The Durham Rescue Mission launched "Operation Warm Shelter" to get shelter, clothing and warm food to the homeless during extreme cold. Volunteers hit the streets in the afternoon, urging homeless people to come into the shelter.

Wake County Human Services will implement its "White Flag" system when temperatures hit 32 degrees. An actual white flag is displayed at shelters as a reminder to come inside and get out of the cold. More people are also allowed to stay than usual. 

To keep students from waiting at bus stops in frigid temperatures, Chatham County schools announced a two-hour delay and Pittsboro Baptist Preschool a one-hour delay Friday.

Some Triangle residents planned a long-distance escape from the cold.

"We're going deep-sea fishing. I can't wait to go to the beach," Nicole McKinley said.