A light snowfall Wednesday night shuttered Stokes County schools on Thursday and resulted in number of traffic wrecks including one near King that took a 60pyear-old woman’s life.
But forecasters with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Va., are predicting much worst weather starting late Thursday night.
“We are looking at initially a mix of sleet and snow starting between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. early Friday,” said meteorologist Chris Fisher on Thursday morning. “That will transition into snow on Friday and last all day on Friday through Saturday.”
He said the county could get between eight and 12 inches of snow and up to a quarter inch of ice during the storm.
“Some of the ice is going to come from the initial precipitation later tonight,” he said. “Then later on Friday there will be a period of freezing rain during the middle of the night before it switches back into snow again.”
Fisher said skies would clear with higher temperatures, in the lower 40s, on Sunday.
“It will help melt a little bit of it,” he said, “but it will not be warm enough for any significant melting, that will take several days.”
He warned that a small winter storm is also on the horizon for later next week.
North Carolina Department of Transportation Road Maintenance Supervisor for Stokes County Craig Sizemore urged people to stay home on Friday if at all possible.
“It is going to get very slick very fast,” he said. “We have been trying to pre-treat the roads as much as possible, but as cold as it has been it is going to stick and get slick. Friday morning rush hour will be very difficult. If you don’t have to go out, don’t. It is going to be very bad all day long.”
Sizemore said the brunt of the storm would happen from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m on Friday.
“Anybody who does make it into work on in the morning will have a very difficult time making it home in the afternoon,” he said. “If you do have to go out I would recommend having an emergency kit in your vehicle so if you get stranded you can stay there with your vehicle and not try to get out and walk because that is even more dangerous with traffic on the slick roads.”
He said emergency kits should include water, snacks and blankets.
“They need to stay warm and hydrated until someone can get there and help them get out of it,” said Sizemore.
He said he would have close to 30 trucks working around the clock for the next four to five days trying to clear the roads in Stokes County, but warned that the state mandate is to focus on primary roads, and key roads to the hospital like Moores Springs Road, during the event and for the first day after snow stops falling.
“Once the event has stopped we have 24 hours to get all of the primary roads cleared, then we move on to secondary roads and we generally have 48 hours to get theme cleared,” said Sizemore. “We will be trying to clear at least one lane of traffic in each direction, so I would appreciate it if people can make sure their cars are parked at least 10 to 12 feet from the pavement on the main road.”
He said trucks clearing roads during wet snow events like the one predicted for this weekend could throw snow up to 30 feet from the area they are clearing.
“We don’t want to do any damage to anybody’s property, but heavy snow is going to throw and it will have some weight to it,” he said. “We are going to be doing everything we can to get the roads clean as quickly as possible so everybody’s life can return to normal. If we don’t get to your road immediately then you are welcome to give us a call and we will try to let you know when you can expect someone there.
“Common sense goes a long way in situations like this,” he added. “Don’t go out if you don’t have to and if you do drive slow and safe.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for the state in advance of the weekend storm system.
“Given the snow and ice accumulations that are predicted, combined with gusty winds and already saturated grounds, this storm has serious potential,” said McCrory. “Ice accumulations of one quarter inch or more can weaken tree limbs and lead to downed power lines. Needless to say, we’re watching this storm very carefully.”
The wintry conditions caused two weather-related fatalities late Wednesday. A Forsyth County woman died after she lost control of her car on a sleet and snow-covered road and struck another vehicle head on. In Stokes County, a woman died after she lost control of her car on a snow-covered road and ended up in a creek.
“As we’ve already seen, these conditions can be treacherous,” said Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry. “If you can stay off the roads when the frozen precipitation begins, please do. If you must be out, we can’t overemphasize the importance of following safe driving tips.”
Governor McCrory said state agencies began preparing for the storm Tuesday. North Carolina Emergency Management has been working with counties to assess and mobilize resources and state transportation crews have been treating roadways. Already, NCDOT crews have spread more than 1.1 million gallons of brine, a salt and water solution which prevents ice from bonding to the roadways.
Other state preparations include:
All state highway patrol troopers activated or on standby
15 teams of National Guard soldiers in Humvees are positioned across western and central North Carolina to assist stranded motorists
Chain saw crews are on standby to quickly clear blocked roadways
NCDOT has staged extra equipment and personnel near typical travel trouble spots along I-77 in Surry County; I-40 in McDowell County and I-26 in Polk and Henderson counties.
Late Wednesday, the governor signed a State of Emergency declaration and issued executive orders waiving certain vehicle weight and service hour requirements. Executed under the Emergency Management Act, the State of Emergency declaration enables the governor to mobilize the necessary resources to respond to a storm. It also is the first step in seeking federal funds to help defray the cost of providing emergency services, clearing debris and repairing any damaged public infrastructure. The executive order waives restrictions on weight and the hours of service for fuel, utility and other truck drivers that may be working to deliver supplies, restore services or clear debris in response to the winter storm. Both orders are in effect for 30 days but could be canceled earlier if conditions warrant.
“Our state agencies are ready for this winter storm,” said North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “We need North Carolinians to partner with us in storm preparation by getting their emergency supply kits together, fueling their vehicles and gathering needed heating supplies.”
More information about storm response and recovery efforts can be found on ReadyNC.org (link is external) or by following NC Emergency on Facebook (link is external) and Twitter (link is external). Real-time information about weather and road conditions and other emergency preparedness actions can be found via the free ReadyNC mobile app.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.