Fayetteville preparing for dangerous ice storm

Posted January 29, 2010 5:03 p.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2010 6:52 p.m. EST

— Fayetteville and the Sandhills were bracing Friday to receive what could be a predicted weekend winter storm's worst blow: widespread ice causing major power outages.

While 2 to 5 inches of snow might fall in that region, a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch of ice could cause much more trouble.

"(That) would really knock out power for most folks," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. "You tend to start to see power outages, trees falling at a quarter of an inch of ice. ... That is not a good situation at all.

"The situation may be worse the farther south you go," she added.

Ahead of the storm, state Department of Transportation crews spread an anti-icing, salt-brine mixture on the roads and the city's Public Works Commission sent workers out to cut limbs away from power lines.

PWC is a local utility, so unlike larger companies, such as Progress Energy or Duke Energy, it can't call in out-of-state crews to help with any power outages.

Spokeswoman Carolyn Justice-Hinson, though, said PWC has mutual aid agreements with North Carolina's more than 70 municipal utility companies.

"We all help each other," Justice-Hinson said. "Just like larger utilities that have crews come from out-of-state, we're prepared – if we don't have outages here – to go and help other utilities. If we need help, they'll be some that'll be prepared to come here."

In case of outages, who gets repairs made first is prioritized, with hospitals topping the list, Justice-Hinson said.

Dunn-based South River Electric Co-Op has similar mutual-aid agreements with co-op utilities across the state in the Tarheel Electric Membership Association, spokeswoman Catherine O'Dell said. South River Electric serves 42,000 customers in Cumberland, Harnett, Sampson, Johnston and Bladen counties.

Resident Lawrence McLean said that if the power goes out on his block, neighbors will pitch in, "check in on older people and help each other out."

"We'll be praying and hoping it's not going to be as bad as they say it's going to be," McLean said.

DOT workers expressed hope that their efforts – spreading 75,000 gallons of brine – will help out on the roads.

"We're as ready as we're going to get. We've covered all the primary routes, and we're working on the secondary roads today," said Bill Hammond, with DOT.