Road conditions to worsen as temperatures plummet

Plows have been working to clear most highways after a winter storm swept through North Carolina. But despite some thawing Sunday, black ice is expected to form on roadways overnight.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Plows have been working to clear most highways after a winter storm swept through North Carolina. But despite some thawing Sunday, black ice is expected to form on roadways overnight.

“As you head out Monday morning, temperatures are still going to be in the teens, so black ice will be an issue,” WRAL meteorologist Kim Deaner said.

Black ice is the term for thin, clear ice that forms over black road surfaces as melting water flows across them and temperatures sink back below 32 degrees. It can be nearly impossible for drivers to see.

For the latest information on road conditions, watch the WRAL Morning News, beginning at 4:30 a.m. Monday.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory Sunday afternoon for most of central North Carolina, including the Triangle and Sandhills.

The DOT urged motorists to stay off the roads overnight into Monday morning so that workers can continue to clear the snow, sleet and ice that fell over 24 hours across the state.

State Department of Transportation engineer Jason Holmes said the combination of precipitation that packed on the roadways will make it "very difficult to get that to break loose from the pavement."

Wake County road crews spent Sunday focusing their attention on Interstate 40, Interstate 440 and Interstate 540, and they worked on portions of U.S. Highway 1, U.S. Highway 64 and U.S. Highway 264. They have barely touched secondary roads, DOT spokesman Steve Halsey said.

"It could be several days before we get the interstates cleared up and go onto our secondary routes," Holmes added. "There is potential of a lot of dangerous situations, even Monday morning."

Raleigh Streets Superintendent Chris McGee also urged motorists to be careful as the worse driving conditions could be Monday morning.

“In the morning, all those wet spots will be black ice,” McGee said.

DOT engineer Ashley Pilkington said Sunday with the threat of black ice looming, crews will be working overnight to respond to emergencies.

“Whenever we get calls, we will put a salt sand mixture on it, but it's going be a lot of locations overnight,” Pilkington said.

Raleigh road crews were clearing and salting bridges across the city, followed by major thoroughfares and Capital Area Transit routes. After that, the city will begin clearing major residential and connector streets, officials said.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell advised motorists not to be lulled into a false sense of security by Sunday's bright sun and melting snow.

"These roads are tough. They are icy," Bizzell said. "They’re treacherous. Talk about slip-sliding away, you can do it."

Fayetteville resident Mark Jivey spent Sunday shoveling about an inch of ice off his driveway, but he and others weren't sure when local side streets would be cleared.

"It was snowing. Then it changed to sleet, then changed to rain, then back to sleet," Jivey said.

Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency, activating government resources statewide to help in the aftermath of a winter storm. The declaration is the first step to seeing federal funds to help with any clean-up and repair required.

“It’s important that we're all safe and stay home,” Perdue said.

Motorists can get travel conditions 24 hours a day for major state highways by dialing 511.

The slick roads have already caused about 2,700 wrecks across the state between early Saturday and mid-afternoon Sunday, according to the state Highway Patrol.

Cars were sliding off the road, into guardrails and each other, troopers said. One car even slammed into a Highway Patrol cruiser that was stopped along Interstate 40 in Johnston County investigating another wreck.

A car hit an icy patch on Craftsman Drive, near Old Wake Forest Road, and slid into a pond Sunday evening, Raleigh police said.

The two people in the car escaped unharmed.

Flights resume at RDU

Raleigh-Durham International Airport was open Sunday and prepared for commercial airline operations, spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said. Due to Saturday's winter storm, about 40 morning flights were canceled, and delays stretched into the afternoon.

"We are seeing a lot more flights take and off land than we were (Saturday)," Hamlin said in a telephone interview. More than 325 flights were canceled on Saturday.

RDU officials said it likely will take a couple of days for flight schedules to return to normal, and they advised travelers to contact their airlines before going to the airport to find out the status of their flight.

Some travelers did whatever it took Sunday to get a flight out.

"I was supposed to leave at 8:30 this morning, but then I was bumped to (Monday), and I begged and pleaded to get me there today," said Michael Morton, who said he has a Monday morning business meeting in San Francisco.

Morton was able to arrange an itinerary to get him to California on time: "It's from here to Miami to New Orleans to Phoenix to Dallas to San Francisco."

Hillary Kaell said she was supposed to leave Saturday, but her flight was canceled. That wasn't the worst part of her day, however.

"I got into a car accident when I was sort of side-swiped by a truck, and I landed in a ditch," Kaell said.

She returned to RDU Sunday looking for a way to get to Canada.

"I have my first job interview on Monday. I have been training for a number of years to be a professor, and this is my shot. I have to be there at 8 a.m. for the interview," she said.

Some travelers have been stranded at the airport since the storm started.

"We got here Friday night. We had a flight, and it got canceled. Then, they scheduled us for Saturday morning, and that got canceled and Saturday afternoon and that got canceled. Then, this morning at 6 o'clock, and that got canceled," Lisa Shanks said.

For those who showed up for their flights only to see delays, the wait was exacerbated by the lack of airport services.

“So I was there at noon for a 3:40 flight, and there's no food,” Gil Gilbert said. “That flight was canceled, so now it's a 5:50 flight. You got a lot people up there. These are like caged animals up there, you know, looking for something to chew on."

Hamlin suggested that travelers ask for flexibility in re-scheduling. "Some airlines, during inclement weather, will allow some flexibility for passengers, allowing them to make changes to their travel plans without penalty."

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Adam Owens, Reporter
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