Roads hazardous after 5-9 inches of snow blankets Triangle; schools closed Monday

The snow and rain that turned many Triangle roads into a slushy mess by Sunday afternoon will continue making travel dangerous for the start of the work week, the National Weather Service said.

The Wake, Durham, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Orange, Johnston and Chatham school systems are all closed to students and staff Monday.

UNC-Chapel Hill announced it was suspending all non-mandatory operations Monday. N.C. State University announced it would delay starting until 11 a.m. on Monday. Any exams scheduled for 8 a.m. Monday have been postponed.

Precipitation from the early December storm varied across the Piedmont, with the rain/snow/sleet line moving north from roughly U.S. 64 on Sunday.

More than 6.5 inches of snow was recorded in Raleigh and 9 inches in Durham County as of Sunday afternoon, according to the weather service. About 6.4 inches was recorded in Chatham County, 7 inches in Chapel Hill, 5.5 inches in Cary, 4.5 inches in Garner, 3.5 inches in Clayton and as much as 8 inches in Wake Forest.

On Monday, colder air will move in as the storm moves south and east. The forecast calls for little or no additional accumulations.

Duke Energy, which initially said 500,000 customers could lose service, reported 297,415 customers in the Carolinas without power Sunday afternoon, including 196,751 in North Carolina.

The state’s electric cooperatives reported another 38,805 without power.

ABC11 meteorologists Don Schwenneker and Chris Hohmann said travel conditions were “messy and very dangerous” in the Triangle.

With light freezing precipitation possible Sunday night, especially north of Interstate 85, driving conditions were expected to remain hazardous through Monday.

“Enjoy the beauty, but respect the danger,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at a Sunday news conference. “This storm is treacherous, especially if you try to drive in it. ... Don’t put your life and the lives of first responders at risk by getting out on roads covered with snow and ice.”

Cooper had issued a state of emergency for all of North Carolina ahead of the storm, and 11 shelters — mostly in western North Carolina — opened Sunday.

“Mother Nature’s been hard on North Carolina this year,” he said. “Our state has been tested like never before. But North Carolinians are tough and resilient.”

Road accidents

N.C. Highway Patrol Col. Glenn McNeill said the Highway Patrol had responded to more than 500 wrecks and more than 1,100 calls for service since early Sunday.

Sunday morning a tractor trailer slid into the Neuse River off U.S. 70 in Kinston. A dive team from Beaufort County was assisting the Highway Patrol. No information was released about the driver or what the truck was carrying, though McNeill said the cargo did not spill. Getting the truck out of the water will be a “multi-day event,” he said.

N.C. Secretary of Transportation Jim Trogdon said most roads across the central and western parts of the state were “extremely hazardous.”

A snow plow drives up N. Greensboro Street in Carrboro, NC on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

State Department of Transportation crews were at work clearing interstates on Sunday, with plans to move on to U.S. routes — about 5,000 miles of roads, Trogdon said.

“Already, NCDOT crews have used more than 13,000 tons of salt and 1,600 tons of a salt and sand mixture to clear roads. Those numbers will climb, as crews continue to work until roads are cleared,” according to the governor’s office.

On Monday, DOT will focus on N.C. highways and secondary roads — an additional 11,000 miles of roads. Nearly 3,000 trucks will be working to clear the roads, Trogdon said.

In Durham on Sunday, police responded to more than 20 wrecks by 1 p.m. and more than 25 calls from stranded drivers, according to a news release. No injuries were reported.

The Durham Rescue Mission, which was already at capacity, had 26 men come in, and was sleeping 53 men on mats on the floor after reaching out before the storm.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport had 239 flight cancellations as of Sunday afternoon, the airport said in a tweet.

Predictions difficult

Duke Energy usually needs up to 24 hours to assess damage from major weather events, “even while simultaneously restoring power,” according to a news release.

The utility had more than 8,700 line and tree workers, damage assessors and support personnel ready to respond this weekend. Still, power outages were expected for the mountains, Foothills, Piedmont, Triad and Triangle areas and portions of upstate South Carolina.

To prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning, customers who do lose power should “never use a gas-powered generator or other fuel-burning appliance indoors or in the garage,” the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services warned. “Never use charcoal grills or propane stoves indoors, even in a fireplace. Never use a gas oven to heat a home, even for a short amount of time.”

If the power does go out, call these numbers:

Duke Power: 800-769-3766. Duke customers may also receive text notifications for power outages in their area. Text REG to 57801 for text alerts.

Piedmont Electric: Main Office 800-449-2667 or Report Outage 800-222-3107

PSNC: 877-776-2427 (Signs of a gas leak)

Check road conditions


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News & Observer reporter Abbie Bennett is a charter member of the McClatchy Carolinas real-time team. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and has won awards for her investigative, politics and breaking news reporting.