Black-ice threat covers state

Posted March 2, 2009 1:40 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— Snowfall in eastern North Carolina late Monday led forecasters to put more counties under a winter weather advisory, warning that black ice could coat roads Tuesday morning. Around 400 schools and businesses announced closings and delays for Tuesday.

Meanwhile Monday night, "an everlasting plume of snow" stretched along a line from Franklin and Warren counties through Rocky Mount and Goldsboro all the way to the coast, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said.

"Where did it come from? We got at least another inch, and it is still falling, wow!" WRAL viewer Lisa Hill, of Wilson, wrote in an email. "The roads are coated, and it is an all-new winter wonderland."

Icy patches formed on Interstate 95, where wrecks blocked northbound lanes around Rocky Mount around 11 p.m.

Nash County dispatch officials said several wreck occurred around mile markers 132 and 138. One wreck involved a horse trailer.

With overnight lows in the teens, a winter weather advisory for black ice extends through Tuesday's morning commute until 9 a.m. Icy patches are most likely to form on secondary roads, access ramps and bridges.

"A lot of the moisture that was on the roadways this afternoon that was liquid will likely freeze tonight. And since ice is transparent, looks like roadways and the roadways are dark or black, that’s where we get the term black ice," Maze said.

N.C. Department of Transportation engineer Steve Halsey said that nighttime and morning drivers should be very cautious and keep an eye out for ice.

"Biggest thing for drivers: Any of these roads could have ice on them," Halsey said. "With the temperatures as cold as they are, ice is very dangerous. So give yourself plenty of time."

N.C. State graduate student Michael Grace said he wasn't looking forward to driving to classes in the morning.

"It doesn't happen here a whole lot. And every time it does, it tends to turn to ice, so it's kinda bad news," Grace said.

In Wake County, most roads were clear, but a skeleton crew will work overnight and spread a sand-salt mixture on problem areas, officials said. Sand provides traction, and salt melts ice.

Chapel Hill officials said that all of the town's streets were passable, but transit services could experience some delays due to road conditions Tuesday. Town workers spread 55 tons of salt on roadways Monday, officials said.

The Neuse River also rose above flood stage in Johnston County Monday night. The river could cause minor flooding through Wednesday morning. At flood stage, the Neuse reaches the base of a 1 million-gallon water treatment plant in Smithfield.

Temperatures turn around by mid-week

An Arctic air mass will stick around North Carolina for at least one more day, but after it moves out, the cold weather will make a dramatic turnaround.

Temperatures will struggle to rise more than a few degrees above freezing Tuesday, and then "clear skies, light winds and a little leftover snow could make for a very cold night," WRAL chief meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

Wednesday will still be a little chilly with a high in the upper 40s, but then the Arctic air moves out – and warm, southwesterly breezes flow in.

"The really good stuff gets here on Thursday as we get into the 60s and then 70s Friday and Saturday," Fishel said.

"It's going to be like a completely different season from Monday to Friday," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

Snow driving tips

The Highway Patrol offered these tips to help drivers navigate slick roads.

  • Clear your vehicle's windows and mirrors.
  • Reduce your speed. Driving at the regular speed limit will reduce your ability to control the car if you begin to slide.
  • Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles.
  • Bridges and overpasses accumulate ice first. Approach them with extreme caution, and do not apply your brakes while on the bridge.
  • If you do begin to slide, take your foot off the gas, and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not apply the brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car.
  • Come to a complete stop or yield the right-of-way at intersections where traffic lights are out. Treat this situation as a four-way stop.
  • If you have a cellular phone, take it with you. You can call the Highway Patrol statewide by dialing *HP (*47) or call the local county emergency center by dialing 911.