Storm spreads disruption in area

Jan. 26, 2013 @ 07:56 AM

Schools and businesses closed early, events were canceled, roads glazed over and accidents proliferated as a nasty wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain blanketed the area Friday and early this morning.

As of mid-afternoon on Friday, authorities reported more than 125 different crashes on local roads — the vast majority minor fender-benders with no injuries. However, a spokesman for the N.C. State Highway Patrol said one person was hurt in a wreck on Carpenter Pond Road near Hickory Pond Road in Durham. Further details on the accident were not available Friday evening.

The situation on the roads is likely not to be much better this morning.

Although the wintry precipitation was expected to end around midnight Friday, temperatures early today should be hovering at freezing or below and won’t warm up until later in the day. The good news is that eventually the mercury will rise to the mid-40s this afternoon, which should mean any ice that has accumulated on the roads should melt away.

Still, authorities urged drivers to be careful.

“We are encouraging citizens to avoid driving and stay off the roads, as much as possible due to poor driving conditions,” said state Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan.

Kammie Michael, a spokesperson for the Durham Police, said the department is “reminding motorists to watch their speeds and keep a safe following distance. We are asking motorists to stay off the roads if possible.”

The wintry mix started around 10 a.m., a bit earlier than forecasters had predicted, forcing schools and businesses to close even sooner than they had intended — and forcing parents of school-age children to adjust on the fly.

Some schools, including those in Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Chatham County, dismissed students for the day as early as 11 a.m. Durham schools closed at noon. All local school districts canceled after-school and athletic events scheduled for Friday afternoon and evening.

The storm also impacted today’s schedule for many local students who were planning to take the SAT exams at Jordan High, the City of Medicine Academy or at Northwood High in Chatham. The tests have been rescheduled for Feb. 16.

Parents and students with questions regarding new registration tickets should contact the College Board at 1-800-257-5123.

Many other events scheduled for today, such as those sponsored by the Durham Parks and Recreation department, will be delayed.

The storm was caused by a fast-moving area of low pressure headed east from the Tennessee Valley. It also brought some gusty winds with it, making Friday’s temperatures — which was in the mid-20s most of the day — feel even colder.

Because of the frigid weather, teams from the Durham Rescue Mission, equipped with hot coffee and pastries, searched Friday for anyone who was homeless and out on the street. They were invited to come to the shelter to spend the night.

“We had 58 men sleeping on the floor Thursday night,” said Ernie Mills, the CEO of the rescue mission. “We will not turn anyone away and will continue to make emergency space to provide warm shelter for men, women and families.”

Staff writer Keith Upchurch contributed to this report.