Local News

Triangle roads thawing out after slip-and-slide morning

Posted February 17, 2013 6:43 a.m. EST
Updated February 17, 2013 11:29 p.m. EST

— Freezing overnight temperatures created patches of black ice on roads and bridges Sunday morning after snow fell steadily across the region Saturday.

Temperatures were slow to climb above the freezing mark late Sunday morning, but sunshine melted any lingering ice by early afternoon.

Shady spots could remain slick into Monday morning.

WRAL meteorologist Aimee Wilmoth said the low overnight Sunday could dip into the upper teens and low 20s, meaning there could be areas of black ice.

Problem spots included the Neuse River Bridge on the Knightdale Bypass, which a Wake County deputy described as an "ice skating rink."

According to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, troopers responded to 56 wrecks from midnight until 5:30 p.m. in Wake and Johnston counties. Raleigh police estimated about 30 weather-related wrecks Sunday.

The right two lanes of U.S. Highway 264 and U.S. Highway 64 were closed in both directions between Hodge and New Hope roads for several hours due to that icy section of bridge.

Also in Wake County, Interstate 40 East at U.S. Highway 70 Business was closed in Garner for about two hours after two collisions involving four cars. Troopers said two people were hospitalized.

Robert Whitley said any icy spot on a bridge caused him to spin out of control on I-40 East and hit a guardrail. That's when he saw another car heading toward him.

"When I looked down the hill, and I saw him coming, I said, 'Wait, should I jump?'" Whitley said. "I said, 'Better not jump.' I stayed in the car and then he went boom, boom, bam, hit me."

Then, several other cars on the bridge began to fishtail, and a red Pontiac Grand Am went airborne and flipped on its side, he said.

"Her car was, like, on the side, and I could see the bottom of it and it was gliding," he said.

A fourth car slammed into the Grand Am, which then struck the first two cars.

Two women – Contina Smith, 31, of Fayetteville, and her passenger, Aneena Sutton, 28 – were thrown from the Grand Am.

Neither was wearing a seat belt, authorities said.

"We were looking for them and we couldn't find them," Whitley said. "Then we heard somebody moaning, and we looked, and they were stuck under my car."

Two people – Rowdy Ables, of Clayton, and Michael Hollis, of Raleigh – face charges of driving while impaired.

Despite the trouble spots on roadways, the Triangle’s third snow of the season was nearly idyllic, compared with two bouts of snow in January that sparked brief power outages and hundreds of wrecks for workday commuters.

Flakes fell from 7 a.m. Saturday in some areas to past midnight Sunday in others, with accumulations ranging from a trace in parts of Wake County to 2.5 inches in Buies Creek by 5 p.m. There was a lull in the storm at that point, but a second band of snow moved into the region from the Triad about 7 p.m.

Then the system took a last gasp and pivoted back east around 11 p.m. By midnight, fresh snow was falling in Raleigh, Wake Forest, Zebulon and surrounding areas.

The state Department of Transportation called in employees about 6 p.m. so they could head out with trucks to salt and sand icy spots. About 20 trucks were initially dispatched, and more were on standby.

Authorities are encouraging motorists to use caution and slow down. That advice was echoed by Arthur Eatmon, a trucker from Rocky Mount who is accustomed to driving in rough weather.

“In this rainy weather with snow and ice, you can really have a lot of accidents, so slow down and be safe,” he said.