01/27/04 — Wayne roads remain slippery

View Archive

Wayne roads remain slippery

By Karinne Young
Published in News on January 27, 2004 2:01 PM

Wayne County can't seem to escape the deep freeze that clamped down its icy grip Sunday, turning streets, sidewalks and parking lots into ice rinks.

Travel this morning was made worse by more ice accumulating overnight. Combined with below-freezing temperatures, highways, roads and side streets remained slippery and, in some cases, impassible.

Wayne County schools remained closed for a second day, along with Wayne Community College and several businesses. City and county offices were to open later today but officials decided during the morning to keep them closed until Wednesday.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base work centers were to open at noon today, but a decision was made later to close and only mission essential personnel were to report.

Roads could still present a challenge Wednesday morning as temperatures struggle to reach the freezing mark today and dip into the mid 20s overnight. The good news, according to the weather service, is that no additional freezing rain or drizzle is expected.

Numerous accidents were reported overnight and early today, and the highway patrol was stretched thin answering calls.

An eight-vehicle accident shut down N.C. Highway 581 in Goldsboro. Each of the cars involved, one after another, went into a ditch after the drivers failed to make a curve.

The accident shut down a half-mile section of road.

"Once they would slow down, gravity would take over, and they would slide down the embankment on the road and just pancake together," said Highway Patrol trooper D.P. Finch.

Two logging trucks collided in the southern part of the county at the intersection of N.C. 111 and N.C. 55 earlier today. An ambulance responding to a call also slid off the road in another location.

Emergency management officials reported extremely dangerous conditions across all of the coastal plain, and portions of the Interstate 95 corridor and U.S. 70 were shut down at various times due to ice.

In some cases, drivers were caught off guard by pavement that was clear in some spots and solid ice in others. Despite salting and sanding operations, bridges and overpasses remained icy.

County roads were good in some areas, bad in others. City streets were mostly untouched and extremely slick, and Goldsboro residents will continue to slide on them, until there's a warming trend in the weather.

Joseph Sawyer, manager of the city's General Services Department, said that the city didn't have enough salt and sand to cover all the roads in Goldsboro.

Hills and bridges receive both salt and sand, while major streets like Center Street, Wayne Memorial Drive and Herman Street are only salted.

Sawyer said that the low temperatures kept the salt from working.

"Below 20 degrees it doesn't do any good," he said. "As it warms up, it will begin to melt it."

In the meantime, Sawyer cautioned people against driving around.

"It's treacherous out there," he said. "It's like driving on a glazed doughnut."

The 12-member street crew has been working since Sunday, though the rest of the city has been closed.

Though there hasn't been any garbage pick up for the past two days, Sawyer said the crews would catch up on Wednesday.

"Those with Monday pickup will be picked up on Wednesday," he said, "and those with Tuesday pick up will be picked up on Saturday."

The city doesn't normally schedule trash pickup on Wednesdays.

City Manager Richard Slozak said that city offices would reopen at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

City employees must take it as unpaid leave, or vacation time.

Slozak said the city's policy was not to pay for bad weather days, because there were so many employees that had to work during those times.

"We have to have the police, Fire Department, the city street crews and employees at the sanitation plant," he said.

The county does pay its employees for bad weather days, but also finds ways to compensate the emergency personnel working during those times.

"We'll pay them for the time they worked and give them comp time or other time to make up for working, while others didn't," said County Manager Lee Smith.

Smith said that paying county employees for bad weather days, more than paid off for the county.

"They are appreciative and they give back a lot more," he said. "They'll call from home and ask if there's anything they can do."

The county will be closed through Tuesday and will also reopen at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Smith said that most people seemed to stay off the roads Monday night, so the accident rate went down.

"EMS did have some difficulty getting ambulances into subdivisions," he said.

The area has been fortunate regarding power outages.

Keith Westbrook of Progress Energy said there were a total of two outages, which affected 67 customers.

"It was a relatively quiet night," he said. "We were fortunate not to have an ice accumulation on the lines."

Wayne Memorial Hospital reported seeing some people who fell on the ice, but none of the injuries was serious, said Nursing Supervisor Mary Carmichael.

Brandon Locklear, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh, said road conditions may not improve much until Thursday.

"Temperatures may get to around freezing in Goldsboro today," he said, "but even at that, you may not see much melting, especially on secondary roads."

Tonight, the mercury will drop into the mid-20s, meaning a cold start Wednesday morning. Temperatures will be slow to climb, as another cold front comes through, said Locklear. In addition, the ice and snow already on the ground will help keep temperatures down. The good news, he said, is that forecasters are not expecting any more precipitation "so there won't be any additions to what's already out there."