Two to four inches of snow, layer of ice expected for Durham

Feb. 11, 2014 @ 07:41 PM

The National Weather Service in Raleigh predicts two to four inches of snow will blanket Durham starting late Wednesday morning, then sleet and freezing rain will take over by Wednesday night. 

A winter storm warning is in effect for Durham County from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 6 p.m. Thursday, as an arctic air mass moves in from the north, combining with a low-pressure system moving northeast from the Gulf Coast into central North Carolina, also bringing up to a half-inch of ice to sidewalks and roadways.

Gov. Pat McCrory declared a State of Emergency on Tuesday to begin mobilizing crews to combat treacherous roads, clean up debris and fix downed power lines.

Steve Abbott, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said Orange County started brining roadsat  9 a.m. Monday, laying down a mixture of salt and water on I-85, I-40 and overpasses and bridges that would freeze first. Orange County used about 9 trucks and about 21,500 gallons of brine to prepare for the storm.

Durham’s DOT brining teams concentrated on I-85, the Durham Freeway and I-40.

As snow and ice begin to accumulate, road crews will be on standby to start spreading more salt and sand. If ice brings down trees and power lines, that may disrupt road cleanup, Abbott said.

“The advantage we’ll have in this storm that we didn’t have last time, is the temperature won’t get in the teens or go really low,” he added.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Lisa Hoffmann said the utility company has workers on standby in the Durham and Chapel Hill areas to help with downed power lines.

“Everybody’s on alert,” Hoffmann said. “We won’t mobilize anybody until we see exactly where the damage is.”

People should never go near downed power lines and should always assume they’re live, she added.

The potential for snow and ice has affected other modes of transportation. As of Tuesday evening, airlines at RDU International Airport had cancelled 20 arrivals and departures scheduled for Wednesday.

Amtrak suspended service Wednesday for the following lines: the Silver Service Train 91 and 98, the Palmetto Train 89 and 90, the Auto Train 52 and 53, and the Carolinian 79 and 80, which cuts through Durham.

Outside of Duke Hospital on Erwin Road Tuesday, Teresa Williams zipped up her white hoodie sweater, bracing herself against the cold. She is part of the housekeeping staff at the hospital, and she said she is considered essential personnel that needs to come in during inclement weather.

“I’m just hoping we don’t have any power outages,” Williams said.

At Duke Children’s Hospital, nurse manager Kristen Ammon, who works with pediatrics patients facing cancer, transplants or infusions, said her staff members are usually in good spirits during bad weather, and they are encouraged to take their time to get to work.

The last time she was affected by severe weather she was working in Florida and had to stay two nights in the hospital where she worked due to a hurricane.

“To me, that’s worse than this,” she said.

Jessica Thompson, vice president for emergency services and patient flow at Duke University Medical Center, said her team will meet days in advance when there’s a forecast for inclement weather.

They’ll stock up on hospital supplies and ensure there are enough clean linens. There also are plans in place to make accommodations for essential personnel to stay in hotels or send vans to pick up staff if weather prevents them from making it to the hospital.

“We do not close, regardless of the weather,” Thompson said. “We have to remain available to our community and our patients.”