Black ice remains, but most roads clear
Most major highways in central North Carolina were cleared of snow and ice by midday Tuesday, but dropping temperatures after nightfall refroze moisture on the ground, creating black ice.Posted — Updated
Secondary roads also remained a challenge because they weren't as likely to be treated with brine and salt that helps melt ice from roads.
"Interstates are relatively clear. They are passable. We are working on some major N.C. routes and then will turn our attention to secondary roads," Jason Holmes, director of operations for the Wake County division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, said Tuesday.
"There is a lot of potential for black ice in the morning hours," Holmes said. "There's no reason to be out on the roads (Wednesday) morning in these conditions."
The state Highway Patrol responded to almost 1,000 calls Tuesday morning and expected similar numbers Wednesday morning. Trooper Matt Young said the safest bet is to avoid the morning commute altogether.
"Our advice is to stay off the roads," Young said. "If you have to get on the roads, take it easy, drive slow, take your time and plan ahead."
The state Highway Patrol responded to more than 2,570 calls Monday after about 6 inches of snow fell in southern counties and freezing rain caused icy patches on Triangle roads, according to the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.
In Lenoir County, Paula Grant Woolard, 32, of Caroline Nicole Drive in Kinston, slid off Pauls Path Road near LaGrange and struck a tree, according to the Highway Patrol. She died on impact. The 2-year-old child in her vehicle was not injured.
Troopers closed part of Interstate 95 early Tuesday after several crashes in the same area. The most serious crash involved a tractor-trailer that wiped out on the Neuse River Bridge on Interstate 95 near Smithfield.
A tractor-trailer driver crashed on Interstate 85 near exit 182, Red Mill Road, in Durham County Tuesday morning. Another tractor-trailer had trouble Tuesday morning as it became stuck at the intersection of Walker and Chatham streets in Cary and blocked two lanes of traffic.
Gov. Beverly Perdue praised the DOT's preparation and clearing efforts but noted the cost.
The state budgeted $30 million for storm response in fiscal year 2010-11 and has spent $26 million so far, she said.
"If you could do anything for the state, you can pray hard that we get warm weather for the rest of the winter," she said.
Holmes said brine spread before the wintry mix fell gave crews a head start, preventing some ice from bonding to the road surface.
"It's better to be safe than sorry," the governor said.
She declared a state of emergency for the entire state Monday, long before any precipitation fell in Raleigh. "That helps some workers and businesses make their decisions," she explained Tuesday.
While hundreds of businesses were closed Tuesday, DOT crews were putting in 24-hour shifts and would be on standby again for Wednesday, Holmes said.
Perdue asked the traveling public to stay off the roads to allow the DOT to finish its work.
"If you have any choice at all, stay home until it warms up a bit," she said.
Holmes said he hoped sun and evaporation would dry most roads by Wednesday afternoon.
The skies clear up for the rest of the week, Maze said, but blustery conditions Wednesday will make it feel like it is only in the 20s. A gradual warm-up completes the week, with the daytime highs reaching almost 50 degrees by Sunday.
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