Snow, rain: Triangle sits on dividing line on cold night

Posted December 8, 2017 5:23 a.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 2:06 p.m. EDT

— Drivers across central North Carolina encountered some sleet, ice and snow mixed with rain throughout the day Friday, but few communities saw snow accumulate, even on the grass.

North Carolina Radar

"If you haven't seen snow yet, you are probably not going to see it," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said just before 5 p.m.

"If you're in Raleigh or Cary, I don't think you're going to get much of any snow accumulation out of this entire thing," he said.

After weeks of warmer-than-normal weather, the turn to cold was not enough to freeze the ground, Fishel said, so much of what fell as sleet and snow was melting on the way down.

By 8 p.m., temperatures in Raleigh and Durham were still hovering just above the freezing mark.

Go slow: Roads everywhere are wet

While it's unlikely the Triangle sees a lot of snow, even slightly wet roads can cause drivers to slip and slide, especially if they are going too fast.

On Interstate 540 and the Triangle Expressway in western Wake County, the typical Friday afternoon traffic was further delayed by a series of fender-benders on wet roads. A brief backup closed westbound lanes of Interstate 40 at Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh during the evening rush.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Transportation said Friday morning that crews would be on standby through the night, prepared to respond to any roads that ice over.

"They will be around through the night until temperatures get above freezing on Saturday," NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott said. "They will be checking the usual trouble spots, like bridges and overpasses, putting salt down if needed and responding to any calls for assistance from law enforcement.

In Roxboro, central North Carolina's "snow capital," where heavy snow fell throughout the day, local and county emergency personnel dealt with multiple crashes as night fell.

Chief of Police David L. Hess urged drivers to slow down, increase following distance and use extra caution on hills, bridges and in turning lanes.

Wet weather reschedules outdoor activities

After a damp and chilly day, the City of Raleigh Parks Department canceled the Holiday Express scheduled for Friday night at Pullen Park. The popular, seasonal family event includes train rides, visits with Santa, a carousel, craft stations and holiday lights. Tickets for Friday will be honored Monday, and refunds are available through the city.

In Cary, the Chinese Lantern Festival at Booth Amphitheatre was also closed Friday night. Pre-purchased tickets can be used for any other night of the festival, which lasts into the new year.

The state high school sports association shifted the kickoff time for football championship games, pushing back the start times for two games scheduled in Winston-Salem. The 4AA state championship game between Wake Forest and Mallard Creek will be played at 3 p.m., followed by the 4A state championship game between Scotland and Harding University at 7 p.m.

Other games in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill were slated to begin at noon as scheduled, but the NCHSAA is watching and waiting.

Snow-rain divide lines up over Triangle

Beginning in mid-morning, communities like Hillsborough, Henderson and Roxboro were reporting snowflakes mixed with rain. Alamance, Orange and Person counties are under a winter storm warning through 4 p.m. Saturday.

The National Weather Service says there's the potential for up to an inch (25 millimeters) of snow in the western and northern piedmont, with lesser amounts to the east and south of those areas.

The state was focusing resources in the mountains, where steady, wet snow was falling Friday and began to accumulate on roads and tree branches.

Several school systems in western North Carolina closed Friday including Avery, Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania and Yancey County Schools. Jackson County schools operated on a delay.

“North Carolinians should stay tuned to the forecast through the weekend, and be prepared for the unexpected,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “We know that winter weather in the South is notoriously difficult to predict, and forecasts can change in a matter of hours.”

While plenty of people saw snow along and north of Interstate 85, counties in the southeast quadrant of the state got just a steady rain.

"Really, from the Triangle (to the) south and east, this is mainly going to be a rain event," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

Fayetteville could see more than an inch and a half of rain through Saturday morning, while about an inch will fall in Raleigh.