Side streets, secondary roads main concern as snow turns to slush

Posted January 23, 2021 9:16 p.m. EST
Updated January 28, 2021 10:54 a.m. EST

It was a short-lived winter wonderland as big, beautiful snowflakes fell across much of the state Thursday morning. In Raleigh, the fattest snowflakes fell between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., before many were out of bed.

Counties northeast of the Triangle saw the most accumulation, between 3 to 5 inches, while Raleigh and Durham saw under 2 inches. Even Fayetteville saw snowflakes, although little to no accumulation was reported in the Sandhills.

By the numbers: Roxboro, Henderson see the most snow.

Children who woke up early enough had an opportunity to play outside, but it was much easier to create snowmen northeast of the Triangle where more snow fell.

By 8 a.m., the snow had ended in the Triangle, and at 9 a.m. the sun was turning snow on secondary streets to slush. Northeast of the Triangle, where the most snow fell, major roads and highways were wet but clear as traffic kept road surfaces warm enough to melt the snow that made contact.

Secondary roads, side streets, bridges and overpasses could remain slick throughout the morning, but conditions will improve gradually throughout the day.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation responded to multiple crashes northeast of Raleigh before 8 a.m., including some tractor trailers that slid off Interstate 95 in Nash County. No serious injuries were reported, and in the Triangle, very few crashes were reported at all.

Thousands of customers lost power in northeastern North Carolina, especially in Henderson and Franklin counties. The most outages reported statewide at one time topped 11,000, according to Duke Energy's outage map.

Person and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools both canceled remote learning and called for a snow day, while most other school systems in the area stayed in remote learning to keep students and teachers off the roads. Find closings and delays here.

WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said any remaining snow will melt very quickly throughout the day as temperatures warm into the 40s. Even as temperatures warm up, there will very likely be slick road conditions, especially on less-traveled secondary roads. Side streets, bridges and overpasses remain slushy in and northeast of the Triangle, and drivers will need to use caution and take their time if they must travel Thursday morning.

By 11 a.m. or noon, when the snow starts to melt, major roads should be mostly clear across the viewing area, Gardner said.

7-Day Forecast

The day will be clear, cold and windy, with highs in the 40s.

By 11 a.m. or noon, major roads should be mostly clear across the viewing area, Gardner said.

Any roads that remain wet could refreeze by Friday morning.

The rest of the week will be mostly clear with little chance for rain and highs in the upper 40s. The next warm-up comes Monday, when highs climb into the 50s.

Hour-by-hour updates

9:00 a.m.: Snow is melting quickly across the viewing area now that the sun is out, but drivers can't let their guard down yet. Northeast of the Triangle, some major and secondary roads remain slushy, and in Raleigh some side streets and neighborhood roads are in bad shape.

In an east Raleigh neighborhood off Trawick Road, a tree fell on powerlines.

WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said road conditions will keep improving over the next several hours, and by noon or 1 p.m. roads should be more clear. The rest of the day will be sunny but very cold and windy. Although highs will be in the 40s, gusty winds will make it feel like the 20s.

If the roads don't dry completely, there could be some slick spots overnight Thursday and early Friday morning, when temperatures fall again.

8:15 a.m.: Person County Schools sent a notice to students and parents calling for a snow day instead of the planned remote learning. Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools did the same thing, giving kids a snow day even during the new normal of learning from home during coronavirus.

"I want everyone to unplug from Google Classroom and Google Meets," said Person Superintendent Rodney Peterson. "Your assignment today is to go out and enjoy the snow. Take a walk in the snow, build a snowman, sled on a hill, or just sit outside and enjoy the view." See school closings and delays here.

8:00 a.m.: Crashes, power outages and downed trees have been reported northeast of the Triangle, and several trucks slid off Interstate 95 in Nash County, but there were no reports of crashes in the Triangle at 8 a.m.

Snow in Roxboro

7:45 a.m.: A box truck is on its side on Interstate 95 in Nash County near Rocky Mount, where highways have more potential to be slushy or slick. Even in the Triangle, drivers will need to travel carefully as road temperatures remain cold.

7:30 a.m.: Elizabeth Gardner said there may be more flurries throughout the morning, but there will be no more accumulation. The most snow fell northeast of the Triangle, between 3 to 5 inches, and the Triangle saw anywhere from a trace to 2 inches. In the Sandhills, there was little to no accumulation. Roxboro has seen 5 inches of snow, Wilson saw 2.5 inches and Raleigh and Durham saw 1.5 inches.

For the next couple of hours, road temperatures will remain near freezing, and drivers will need to travel carefully. By the time the sun comes out, road conditions should improve.

7:15 a.m.: More than 11,000 customers in North Carolina have lost power, most northeast of the Triangle in Henderson and Franklin counties, which saw several inches of snow. Crews were still working to remove a tree covering N.C. Highway 158 in Roxboro that fell earlier this morning.

7 a.m.: Kids hoping to play in the snow? It will be easier northeast of the Triangle, where thicker, more powdery snow fell. In Wilson and Rocky Mount, it will be easier to build a snowman or make a snow angel than in Raleigh and Durham, where the grounds were only lightly covered when the snow stopped falling around 6 a.m. If you're hoping for some playtime outdoors, get outside early, because Elizabeth Gardner said the snow will melt quickly Thursday morning.

5 inches of snow in Henderson

Here's an easy snow cream recipe you can try today. Make sure to use clean snow!

6:40 a.m.: In Cary on Tryon Road, drivers were relieved to see the roads were slushy, not icy or snowy, but conditions were worse northeast of the Triangle. In Raleigh, road temperatures were hovering right around freezing at 6:30 a.m., so slick conditions are possible, especially on bridges and overpasses.

Get a live look at road conditions across the Triangle here.

6:30 a.m.: A large tree has fallen in Roxboro at N.C. Highway 158 near Hugh Blalock Road. WRAL Brett Knese reported traffic is at a standstill because the tree is covering the entire roadway. Roxboro saw more snow than the Triangle, with up to 4 inches in places. Power outages and multiple crashes were reported in the area.

6:00 a.m.: Coronavirus vaccine clinics at WakeMed and UNC Health will open late Thursday due to snow accumulation across the Triangle. At 6 a.m., snow was moving out of the Triangle, and snowflakes have stopped or slowed in Raleigh and Durham.

Roads across the Triangle are mainly wet as snow melts, but road conditions will be worse northeast of Raleigh, where more snow has accumulated. Across the viewing area, it's best to stay put until midday.

5:45 a.m.: Despite the light snowfall, crashes are being reported across the Triangle. In Orange County, a tractor trailer was stuck in the median on Interstate 40 at Mile Marker 270. I 40 at the 270 mile marker. Multiple crashes were reported on Interstate 95 near Rocky Mount.

Franklin County Schools announced they would close for the day.

5:30 a.m.: Major interstates in the Triangle are "mainly just wet," according to Brian Shrader, but bridges, overpasses and secondary roads, especially northeast of the Triangle, could be slushy or even slick. Road temperatures are below-freezing in the Triangle and could make for dangerous conditions for drivers throughout the morning. As the sun comes out, the snow should melt quickly, and road conditions should improve by midday.

Roxboro, seeing between 3 and 4 inches of snow, is among the towns in central North Carolina seeing the most accumulation.

Crashes and power outages have been reported in the area, and Mayor Merilyn P. Newell asked drivers to go slowly if you must travel.

5:15 a.m.: Here's a look at snow totals since midnight across the viewing area. Elizabeth Gardner said the "back edge" of the snow is approaching the Triangle.

Snowfall reports as of 5 a.m.

5:00 a.m.: Since midnight, officials have responded to at least eight crashes in Roxboro, according to Chief David Hess, who urged people to stay off the roads and "let crews do their job." As much as 3 inches of snow have already fallen.

Snow blankets cars in UNC Rex parking lot

4:45 a.m.: Brian Shrader said main roads in the Triangle were "slushy," and south of the Triangle, roads were clearer. Triangle roads may worsen throughout the morning, particularly to our north, where the snow is expected to stick to the roads longer. More than 800 customers are without power in Roxboro.

4:30 a.m.: The fat snowflakes that were falling in Raleigh and Durham at 3:30 a.m. have become lighter at the moment. From the Triangle southward, Elizabeth Gardner said the snow will melt very quickly Thursday morning as temperatures stay just above freezing.

"It may be disappointing for kids hoping to play in the snow all day," Gardner said. In Durham and Rocky Mount, the snow may last longer due to colder road temperatures.

Snow was falling as far south as Fayetteville and accumulation is likely along the Interstate 95 corridor, an area that often doesn't see a lot of snow.

4:00 a.m.: Even as snow falls, no delays have been reported at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Check the WRAL Flight Tracker for updates.

3:40 a.m.: Fat snowflakes are falling in Raleigh and across the Triangle, covering bushes, cars and even residential streets as temperatures hover right above freezing. Snow is falling across central North Carolina, with more accumulation north of the Triangle and less accumulation to the south. Snow could accumulate on some busier roads, but the occasional passing car was keeping road temperatures warm enough that snow wasn't sticking.

Snow accumulating in west Raleigh

Roads will still be slick and snowy for the morning commute, and anyone who can't stay home should use caution and allow extra time for their trip.

2:00 a.m: The snow started accumulating in some parts of our northern counties and heavy flakes have arrived in the Triangle.

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