Post-Christmas snow slows Sunday travel

The beauty of a white Christmas was countered by slick conditions on roads across North Carolina Sunday.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The beauty of a white Christmas was countered by slick conditions on roads across North Carolina Sunday. The snow fell so quickly through the morning that state Department of Transportation could not keep roads clear.

In the Triangle, the snow forced malls gearing up for post-Christmas sales to scale back.

Crabtree Valley Mall opened an hour later than planned Sunday and closed three hours early, while Triangle Town Center and Cary Towne Center closed two hours early.

Susan Moran, a spokeswoman for the Town of Cary, urged shoppers to give crews time to clear local roads before venturing out. She said a team of pickup truck plows was working on clearing roads in Cary subdivisions.

"The roads aren't in good shape," Steve Halsey, an engineer with the state Department of Transportation who oversees Wake County, said. "We've been out on the major roads, doing the best we can to try to get he snow pushed off and get some salt and things put down.

Halsey said crews wouldn't be able to clear main roads completely until the snow stopped falling Sunday night.

The state Highway Patrol responded to more than 1,300 calls statewide between midnight and 3 p.m., mostly collisions on highways, patrol spokesman Sgt. Jeff Gordon said. 

The City of Raleigh had crews working 12-hour shifts spreading salt and plowing major routes. A spokesman there said they expected to have bus routes and multi-lane corridors clear by Tuesday morning.

Only one weather-related fatality was reported on North Carolina roads. 

A woman died at about 3 a.m. in Mecklenburg County when the car she was riding in slid off a road and hit a tree, Gordon said. Authorities said alcohol also played a role in the wreck.

A jackknifed tractor-trailer shut down northbound Interstate 95 in Nash County shortly before 11 a.m., but the wreck was cleared and the highway reopened by noon.

Gordon urged drivers to stay off the roads to allow highway crews to clear them as much as possible.

"The big issue is late (Sunday) going into (Monday) and even Tuesday," he said. "Although the snow may cease falling, what we're going to find then is temperatures are going to fall, and anything we have on the roadways – and we have an ample amount – is going to cause some problems."

Patches of black ice were expected to develop overnight Sunday and make travel slick for Monday morning.

“We know many people are traveling for the holidays and we want everyone to be extremely cautious,” said Doug Hoell, state emergency management director. “Anyone who is thinking of driving during the next few days, should pay careful attention to the weather and traffic forecasts before heading out.”

Crews sprayed brine on major roads several days ago in advance of the storm, which Halsey said has helped to keep slick spots to a minimum.

"The brine did a good job," he said. "It helps us get a head start on it, so once the snow did start to build up a little bit, it was slushy and easy to get off."

About 50 or 60 trucks were clearing roads in Wake County and spreading salt and and sand on Sunday, but Halsey said snow came down so fast that it was accumulating on roads again shortly after plows had cleared them. 

Air travelers stuck at RDU

For those who hoped to fly out of Raleigh Sunday, the airlines had bad news – cancellations and delays popped up on departure boards as the storm moved up the east coast. 

Andrew Sawyer, spokesman for RDU, said the runways were open throughout the day and that individual airlines were making decisions about flights.

Snow started falling around New York City late Sunday morning, by which time nearly 1,000 flights out of the region's three major airports had already been canceled in anticipation of the storm. More cancellations were expected.

Some flights out of Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore also were canceled. Most carriers were waiving fees for one-time changes in affected areas and urging passengers to make changes through their websites.

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