Snow Strikes First, Bitter Cold Next

North Carolina got the first of two doses of winter weather Saturday – a storm system that left a coating of snow from the mountains, to the coast and across the Triangle. The second dose will plunge the state into a deep freeze.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina got the first of two doses of winter weather Saturday – a storm system that left a coating of snow from the mountains, to the coast and across the Triangle.

The second dose will plunge the state into a deep freeze. Highs Sunday will struggle to get to the freezing mark, and the overnight low will be in the low teens.

As of 5 a.m. Sunday, however, temperatures were still at or above the freezing mark in many areas, except for cities to the west and north of Raleigh, such as Chapel Hill, Oxford and Roxboro.

Cary reported just three traffic accidents during the storm.  Police were investigating a single -car accident on Lake Pine Drive that happened at 2 a.m., and sent three people to the hospital, but it was unclear if weather played a factor.

A winter storm warning expired at midnight for most counties in Central and Eastern North Carolina. Forecasters, originally predicting 2 to 4 inches of snow for the Triangle area, said that amounts likely will be 1 to 2 inches by the time the storm ends. Warm ground temperatures were keeping much of the snow from accumulating on roadways and other surfaces, and the heaviest snows were pushing east of Raleigh.

Areas in and around the Triangle began seeing snow Saturday afternoon after a steady morning rain.

“I love it because it's fun to have it in North Carolina. Because in Maryland, we had it a little bit this week, but this is really rare when I come down here. It's never snowing,” Kristin Mali said.

Snow was still being reported in areas west of Interstate 95, though there were scattered reports of snow to the east of that line, including in Sampson and Halifax counties.

As of 10:30  p.m. Saturday, it was still above freezing throughout most of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Roadways were wet and no major accidents were reported in the Triangle, according to the state Highway Patrol.

Areas between U.S. 1 and Interstate 95 were likely to see the highest snowfall totals by the end of the night.

Temperatures are expected in the low to mid-20s before daybreak Sunday. Temperatures Sunday are not expected to warm much above freezing, which could cause slick spots on the roads through early Monday morning.

Morning Rain Contributes to Accidents
Despite the precipitation, a state Highway Patrol dispatcher said he was surprised at the lack of accidents.

"Everybody has heeded all the warnings the media has put out and the warnings we put out." Trooper M.W. Owens said Saturday night. "We aren't working any wrecks. We don't have anything and we hope it stays that way."

Raleigh police officers said they were called out to at least four fender benders on the Interstate 440 Beltline, including one involving a trooper. His cruiser spun out of control on the Outer Beltline near Hillsborough Street and had to be towed.

A sport utility vehicle also spun out of control on the Outer Beltline and hit a guard rail near Wade Avenue.

A vehicle overturned at Sunset Lake Road and Whitted Road in Fuquay-Varina shortly after 11:30 a.m. Troopers confirmed some people were injured but did not say how many.

Two cars ran off the road into ditches in Edgecombe and Wayne counties early Saturday, troopers said. A vehicle overturned on N.C. Highway 231 near N.C. Highway 22 in Johnston County, injuring the driver, but troopers could not say if that accident was weather related.

Public transportation was moving according to schedule. Riders can check for inclement weather delays by visiting GoTriangle's Web site or calling 919-485-RIDE.

The rain washed away the state Department of Transportation's effort to prepare for the storm early. Crews laid a salt brine mix on major interstates on roads Friday, but the layer was all gone Saturday, thanks to the rain.

DOT crews with about 70 trucks had to start snow and ice clearing efforts from scratch and have been out all day dusting roads with salt brine.

“It's always good for the guys to get out there. Some of them haven't ever been out to do this kind of work,” said Steve Halsey, with the state Department of Transportation.

Raleigh officials hoped to avoid a repeat of the gridlock that struck the city when less than an inch of snow fell on Jan. 19, 2005 – exactly three years ago. Some motorists were stuck on interstates for more than eight hours, and 3,000 students were stranded at schools overnight.

Since then, the city has implemented a new severe weather plan and has about 40 snowplows on stand-by for this storm, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

"If you’re going to have a snow, the best time to have it is on the first day of a three-day weekend when people don’t need to go out on the next day," Meeker said on Friday. "This storm will be tough, though, because of the very cold weather coming in Saturday night. So everyone should really stay in till it’s safe on Sunday."

Cary's "A-Team" of 85 staffers, 46 plows and 13 spreaders were ready to keep the town's 350 miles of road as wintry weather moved in to the area, town officials said. An additional 100 miles of state-owned roads go through the town.

Cary staffers will be working phone lines after 8 a.m. for all non-emergency calls at 919-469-4090. Residents were asked to call 911 only for emergencies.

DOT crews in Johnston County are monitoring major roadways for ice overnight.

“We have the Interstate 95 corridor and a major concern is travel and the freezing temps as this rain settles in we are concerned about that,” said Derrick Duggins with Johnston County Emergency Management.

Wake Forest's Public Works Department used its six plows to keep its 56 miles of roads clear. The town had 28 tons of a sand/salt mix and 175 tons of pure salt available.

The threat of winter weather has prompted some cancellations. Durham's Martin Luther King Parade, scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed until noon Feb. 2. Click here to view a complete listing of closings and delays.

Sunday's Barry Manilowe concert at the RBC Center has been postponed. The new date for the concert has not been scheduled, but all tickets will be honored, officials said.

 Weathering the Storm

Volunteers planned to hit the Durham streets Saturday afternoon and try to bring the homeless to a little bit of warmth at the Durham Rescue Mission.

"The freezing temperatures and snow predicted in our area for the next few days is causing folks to raid grocery stores and are making plans to stay by a warm fire,"  a release from the Durham Rescue Mission read. "But there are those in our community who don't have the ability to stock up on bread and milk and a warm home to shelter them from this bitterly wintry weekend."

Men are welcomed at the 1201 E. Main St. Mission, and women and children to Good Samaritan Inn, 507 Knox St.

To help cope with the larger number of people seeking shelter, the Mission asked for donations of:

  • Food, especially breakfast meats, bacon and sausage.
  • Towels and washcloths.
  • Disposable baby diapers, especially sizes 4 and 5.

Area municipal leaders offered some tips to help residents weather the storm:

  • Do not park on streets, so that plows and other snow-clearing equipment can service the area.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on your neighbors to make sure everyone is OK.
  • Stay indoors during severe winter weather. If you decide to venture out – whether walking or driving – let someone know when you are leaving and where you are going, so they can contact emergency officials should you fail to reach your destination. Take a cell phone just in case.
Please send us your snow photos and file a report on conditions in your area.

WRAL News will have meteorologists tracking the storm and reporters in the field to bring you the latest updates on air and online.