Traffic and travel: State officials say avoid driving if you can

Posted January 17, 2018 4:58 a.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:41 p.m. EDT

— After a snow system dumped up to a foot of snow across North Carolina, motorists were urged to stay off the streets and avoid roads that were becoming more treacherous moment by moment.

At a 5 p.m. press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper said crews have placed two million gallons of brine on state roads using 600 trucks and 5,000 tons of salt and sand since Monday. The North Carolina State Highway patrol said it has answered 2,200 calls for service, nearly 1,600 of which were related to collisions, across the Tar Heel State.

"The good news is that there have been no fatal accidents so far in North Carolina," Cooper said.

Cooper said drivers should stay off the roads if at all possible.

"Wherever you are tonight, you really need to plan to be there through tomorrow morning," WRAL traffic reporter Brian Shrader said.

Three lanes of Interstate 440 were closed for about two hours near Capital Boulevard on Wednesday night after a four-car crash that left one person pinned between a vehicle and a guard rail.

At one point, Interstate 85 was closed in both directions near Exit 68 due to multiple crashes although it reopened several hours later. A truck that slid off the roadway was blocking an I-85 ramp near Duke Street at about 4:30 p.m.

Two women were rescued Wednesday afternoon by a Durham police officer after their car slid off an icy road and into a creek. No injuries were reported.

U.S. Highway 70 was closed Wednesday night near Jones Sausage Road due to icy conditions.

The winter weather system has prompted the cancellation of several flights at Raleigh-Durham International Airport and by 5 p.m., Southwest Airlines had canceled all flight operations through noon Thursday. Passengers were urged to check with their carriers before heading to the airport since many flights were delayed or scrapped altogether.

NC road conditions image

Several motorists were seen on the side of the road after becoming stranded.

Early in the day, Sgt. Michael Baker said residents who could stay off the roads should do so. He said all troopers were on standby status and could be brought in on a needed basis. Officials in the city of Cary said they began plowing roads when the snow has accumulated to 1 inch in depth.

NCDOT crews put down about 138,000 gallons of brine over the past few days and will begin laying down salt when the temperature drops Wednesday night.

"You just have to salt overnight and when the sun comes up and the temperatures come up in the morning, that's when we put the plows out and push it off," said Jason Dunigan with the Wake County DOT.

While roads in the Triangle remained slushy Wednesday afternoon, WRAL traffic reporter Brian Shrader warned that conditions will become more dangerous as temperatures fall throughout the night.

"As those temperatures drop tonight, that slush hardens over and we've got an ice rink," he said.

Other traffic information:

  • In Durham, 54 weather-related crashes have been reported since 7 a.m.
  • GoRaleigh announced that buses will suspend service early on Wednesday, with the last bus departing at 5:30 p.m. GoDurham was set to suspend transit service at 1 p.m. GoCary and GoTriangle were was suspending all service at 2 p.m. Chapel Hill Transit services were suspended.
  • State Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbott told WRAL News that the earlier rainfall was not heavy enough to wash away the brine that had been spread in the days leading up to the storm. That means the substance should make it harder for roads to ice over as below-freezing temperatures descend on the state.
  • As of 2:30 p.m., state DOT officials said there have been 1,023 crashes reported throughout the state with 65 of those reported in the Triangle. During his 10 a.m. press conference, Gov. Cooper said most of the crashes that have been reported were largely confined to the western part of the state. But that was before the storm moved east into central North Carolina. Officials urged drivers to increase their following distance, slow down, don't drive distracted and plan for travel delays. The governor asked residents to refrain from calling 911 or *HP to ask for road conditions.

  • A driver was reportedly stuck in their vehicle for about two hours after crashing on NC 64 in Chatham County. It was not immediately clear if the driver was hurt during the incident.

  • In Roxboro, known as the unofficial snow capital of North Carolina, officials said there have not been any major accidents but the Person County sheriff said there have been 22 crashes or disabled vehicles reported in the county since 6 a.m.

  • In Knightdale on N.C. Highway 64, an overturned vehicle sat in the middle of the media after it wreck. Several law enforcement crews were on the scene but it was not immediately clear if there were any injuries from the wreck. WRAL News reporter Amanda Lamb said back roads in the area were covered but the highway seemed largely passable.

  • A one-vehicle accident was reported on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. The crossover vehicle appeared to have spun out in the middle of the road, according to WRAL News reporter Mikaya Thurmond. It was not clear if anyone was hurt during the wreck.

  • Snow and ice were blamed for a crash involving a Greyhound bus on Interstate 65 that left 21 people injured, including 18 bus passengers. The Kentucky State Police said the bu was en route to Nashville when the bus wrecked during a multi-vehicle, chain-reaction crash that involved the passenger bus, four trucks and two cars, authorities said. The passengers were rushed for medical treatment to local hospitals. Their conditions were not believed to be life threatening. Authorities have not publicly said yet if anyone would face charges in connection with the wreck.