Local News

Traffic returns to normal after snow, ice

Posted January 21, 2009 9:51 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Traffic started returning to normal Thursday after black ice and snow plagued the area Tuesday and Wednesday.

However, state Department of Transportation officials warned people to be cautious of secondary roads until all the ice melts.

"The typical congestion patterns are returning as more people head back to work today," said WRAL traffic reporter Brian Shrader. "We haven't heard about any specific weather-related problem areas."

Three Vance County elementary school students were aboard a school bus that hit a patch of ice on Edwards Road, off U.S. Highway 1, and skidded into a ditch at about 7 a.m. Thursday, authorities said.

The students were uninjured, and the school district's tow truck was able to pull the bus out of the ditch, authorities said.

Black ice forms when melting snow forms a thin layer of water on roadways. When the water freezes, the black asphalt shows through the ice, and it can be nearly impossible for drivers to spot in time to slow down.

"It (black ice) could pop up on you in a split second,” state Department of Transportation maintenance engineer Tim Little said Wednesday evening.

The sun melted a lot of snow Wednesday, creating the runoff necessary for black ice.

"During the morning Thursday, it will still be well below freezing," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

A National Weather Service winter weather advisory for central North Carolina warned of potential ice on roadways, bridges and walkways through 9 a.m. Thursday.

“Things will refreeze overnight. There will be some slick spots. You need to be careful,” Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Some schools, businesses and churches scheduled delayed openings or closed altogether for another day due to the threat of dangerous road conditions.

Durham, Wake, Nash/Rocky Mount and Granville public schools said they would open on a two-hour delay Thursday. Sampson, Person, Franklin, and Wilson counties were planning to open two hours late. Orange County schools made 10 a.m. their start time. Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools were the exception, going back to a regular schedule.

Harnett, Lee, and Wayne counties canceled classes for Thursday.

Major interstates and roadways and some secondary roads were clear Wednesday, state DOT maintenance engineer Jason Holmes said. However, officials were concerned that those improved road conditions earlier in the day could create a false sense of security for overnight drivers.

"To me it’s even more dangerous because people get comfortable, the road is clear and then all of a sudden they pop up on black ice," Holmes said.

The state DOT treated as many roads as possible during the day and plan to monitor road conditions closely overnight. Throughout the past two days, the state DOT has used 3,000 tons of salt on roads.

 Warm temperatures will return Thursday.

"With all the sunshine, we will start to get melting on the highways, much like we did today. Then even the shady areas should start to melt by 10 and 11 a.m. as the air temperature goes above freezing," Fishel said.

Thursday will likely see a high around 48 degrees.

Temperatures will break the 50-degree mark on Friday and Saturday. Sunday will be a cooler, with a high of 41 degrees.