Local News

Watch out for black ice overnight

Posted January 20, 2009 2:53 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— After a daylong snowfall coated the Triangle, schools and businesses were cautious in planning for Wednesday. The state Highway Patrol is already getting reports of black ice forming on interstates as melt-water freezes over the dark pavement.

Skies were expected to clear Tuesday night, but clear skies mean lower temperatures to worsen already dicey road conditions. Wednesday cold will be no help.



"Many of us will spend a good part of the day Wednesday in the mid-20s to around 30," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said. Slippery conditions could linger into Wednesday afternoon, depending on how much sun shines over the area.

"Lingering areas of snow, slush and ice will continue to make for hazardous travel conditions," Fishel said.

DOT officials said they were "very concerned" about Wednesday's driving conditions and the possibility of black ice, which forms when snow melts and forms a thin layer of water on roadways, then freezes. It can be nearly impossible for drivers to spot in time to slow down.

More than 750 organizations have already delayed or canceled openings in anticipation of still-icy roads Wednesday morning.

“Drivers that are out there are going to need to use extreme caution if they have to go out tonight or early tomorrow morning,” Steve Halsey, a DOT engineer in Wake County, said Tuesday.

WRAL traffic reporter Brian Shrader mirrored that sentiment.

"You could run across a slick spot at any point," Shrader said. "The morning commute (Wednesday) is going to be a real mess."

Get tips for driving on slick roads.

“The biggest mistake that's occurring today – and it's the one that occurs every time we have an event like this – is people are simply traveling too fast for the roadway conditions,” Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. Everett Clendenin said.

State troopers and other emergency personnel stayed busy Tuesday responding to crashes on various highways. In the Triangle counties from Durham east , troopers responded to 717 weather-related wrecks.

If you do hit an icy patch while driving, turn your steering wheel in the direction of the slide, Clendenin said. He also urged all motorists to slow down.

"All it takes is one error, one misjudgment, and you could find yourself involved in a collision," he said.

Gov. Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency Tuesday, activating the state's Emergency Operations Center.

Crews from the N.C. Department of Transportation planned to work around the clock, plowing snow that melted Tuesday and salting roads to lessen the likelihood of ice forming. DOT officials noted that they would focus on major roads first, including interstates and U.S. highways, then move on to secondary roads.



Authorities urged those who did not need to drive to stay off the roads so crews could do their work. Rural roads, overpasses and bridges were among the most dangerous places.

There were reports of significant black ice on overpasses Tuesday evening, troopers said. Interstate 540 is a problem area, particularly near Falls of Neuse Road.

Raleigh police responded to more than 100 wrecks Tuesday. On average, the department deals with about 50 in a day, spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

"Everything is getting a little scary. If you are trying to make it up some hills, you can do a little fish-tailing,” motorist Sarah McNelis said of driving in snow and ice.

Ron Nelson, a recent Triangle transplant from Boston, braved the slick roads Tuesday evening.

"We learned from a young age to take it slow and go easy,” Nelson said.

Nelson said it is not the ice that scares him, but other drivers not accustomed to icy roads.

"You don't want everyone else banging into you,” he said.

Travel at Raleigh-Durham International Airport gradually returned to normal Tuesday evening. One-hundred arriving flights were canceled and 60 delays reported throughout the day. Crews continue to de-ice the airport's runways and planes. To check flight info, visit the airlines' Web sites, call the flight reservation numbers or visit www.rdu.com.