Wrecks litter snowy, icy roads; schools closed
Posted December 16, 2010 4:47 a.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2010 7:31 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Road conditions gradually improved throughout Thursday after a treacherous morning commute on snowy and icy roads caused numerous wrecks. A man died in a Fayetteville wreck.
The hardest-hit area appeared to be the northern Interstate 95 corridor, where most roads were partially covered with snow and ice, State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Dara Demi said. DOT crews focused first on interstates and primary roads, then secondary roads.
In the Triangle, drivers can expect to encounter icy spots, especially on secondary roads, throughout the day. Crews are putting salt on slick spots.
An ice-snow mix in areas east of I-95 has mostly melted away, Demi said. DOT workers are monitoring conditions and are ready to respond as needed.
Road conditions began improving once the wintry mix turned into pure rain early Thursday afternoon.
Any freestanding water, though, could become black ice late Thursday and early Friday.
Treacherous morning commute
Numerous wrecks were reported from the Triangle down to Fayetteville, as freezing rain created an icy glaze on top of snow that had already stuck to roads. Secondary and rural roads that hadn't been treated with anti-icing mixtures saw icing.
A pickup truck slid off the side of the road at Elliott Bridge Road and U.S. Highway 401 in Fayetteville, state troopers said. When the driver corrected, the truck's tires quickly gained traction on the pavement, sending it crashing into an oncoming car. The driver of the car, Larry Raines, 50, of Sanford, was killed.
Troopers said Raines was just getting off work at a Goodyear plant when the wreck happened.
The driver of the truck was identified by troopers as 39-year-old Israel Beltran. Charges are pending.
In Duplin County, a 65-year-old man was killed when his vehicle struck a patch of black ice while traveling on N.C. Highway 11 near Pink Hill, troopers said. The man's vehicle crossed the center line into the path of another vehicle and collided.
The man was identified as Michael Fillmore Waller, of Deep Run.
Paul Smith, a tow truck driver in Cumberland County, said his drivers worked 35 wrecks, mostly on bridges and in rural areas.
Interstate 95 traffic in Johnston County was nearly stopped for a couple hours by multiple wrecks near mile markers 82 and 91, between Smithfield and Benson, authorities said. All the wrecks caused injuries, and EMS crews transported the victims.
DOT crews going to clear those areas got caught up in the traffic congestion, Demi said.
Driving too fast for weather conditions caused a number of vehicles to wreck and overturn in Raleigh, police said. At one point, wrecks partially closed Interstate 440, near Lake Boone Trail, and Interstate 40 West at U.S. 70 Business.
Troopers said they responded to a number of wrecks in a 14-county area surrounding Wake County.
Fayetteville police closed the Cliffdale Road bridge over the All-American Freeway. An icy stretch there had caused a number of wrecks, including an overturned vehicle, police said.
Five people were taken to WakeMed Hospital after the driver of an SUV lost control due to slick surfaces on East Garner Road in Wake County on Thursday, troopers said.
The driver and four passengers suffered non life-threatening injuries. No other vehicles were involved in the wreck. One of the people injured is a North Carolina Highway Patrol employee, troopers said.
Raleigh police said they responded to about 100 wrecks between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Thursday. In addition, officers answered about 40 calls to assist motorists, whose vehicles were stuck or disabled.
The state Highway Patrol said it responded to about 40 wrecks in a 90 minute period.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport has experienced no major problems due to winter weather, spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin. Crews are de-icing planes, a few flights have been canceled, and about 10 have been delayed.
Emergency workers rescued a Raleigh teen after he got stuck in a frozen pond near Doverton Court on Thursday afternoon. Authorities said the boy was on a raft in the middle of a neighborhood pond when the ice below started to break. The teen was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Schools closed across central, eastern N.C.
Hundreds of schools and businesses closed or delayed opening due to the messy roads.
(See a complete list of closings and delays.)
Edgecombe County school administrators decided to send students home after opening on time. Buses returned to schools to bring the children home. The school will operate on a two-hour delay on Friday.
Wake and Johnston county schools will also operate on a two-hour delay on Friday.
The Wake, Durham, Cumberland, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Chatham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Nash, Person, Orange, Vance, Warren and Wayne county school systems were closed Thursday, while other school systems delayed opening by two hours.
North Carolina Central University was also closed, and North Carolina State University pushed back some exams.
The Vance, Granville and Franklin county school systems announced plans to remain closed Friday.
Durham County government offices opened at 10:30 a.m., two hours late, and county libraries opened by 11 a.m.