01/28/04 — The thaw is under way for Wayne

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The thaw is under way for Wayne

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on January 28, 2004 2:01 PM

Although a thick fog hid the sun Tuesday, the mercury climbed high enough to begin melting some of the ice and snow that had hampered travel on county roads for three days.

Weather conditions over the next few days should help get rid of most of the ice before the possibility of snow enters the picture early next week.

Drivers this morning found some trouble spots, but overall roads were much improved. Still slick were parking lots, driveways and shady areas.

Minuscule amounts of moisture fell early Tuesday, thickening ice before the temperature rose. Abundant sunshine should take care of most pavement today with highs in the mid 40s expected. Temperatures in the lower 20s tonight will re-freeze some surfaces, but forecasters said dry, gusty winds today will help dry things.

Temperatures will remain mostly seasonal over the next several days with only a slight chance of sprinkles Friday.

But the National Weather Service in Raleigh has mentioned the possibility of snow in its forecast for Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Schools closed

The Wayne County public schools were again closed today. The decision was made at noon on Tuesday. Teachers were required to work today, going in two hours later than usual.

No decision had been made at press time about school for Thursday.

Roads better

The roads in Wayne County have improved considerably since Tuesday and are in very good condition, according to Carla Taylor with the N.C. Division of Highways in the county.

"We made a lot of progress yesterday," she said.

A couple of the division's trucks had trouble staying on the roads Tuesday and were sliding around. That should not be the case today, she said.

There are still some patches of ice on secondary roads, and people should take it easy on those, but everything else is pretty clear, added Ms. Taylor.

Division employees are still out working, mainly clearing the roads in subdivisions. She believes all of the ice will be gone from the roads by the end of the day.

Offices open

Wayne County and Goldsboro offices opened at 10 a.m. today as scheduled, though there was some confusion regarding the time for District Court.

County Manager Lee Smith said that about 100 people showed up at the courthouse at 9 a.m., a full hour before the building was scheduled to open.

The county isn't responsible for scheduling court, so Smith wasn't sure whether District Court was going to be held, but he opened the building so the crowd wouldn't have to wait in the cold.

Smith said he knew that Superior Court had been called off, but wouldn't know about District Court until the Clerk of Court's office opened at 10 a.m.

"I think the District Court judge has the responsibility of calling it off," Smith said. "It's just one of those problems we'll work out."

Joseph Sawyer, Goldsboro general services manager, said that city streets were clear, except for isolated shady spots.

"I have a crew out riding through the city locating these areas," he said, "and putting salt down on them."

Sawyer said that with the salt and the rising temperature, city streets should remain clear.

Warnings heeded

The number of calls to Wayne County's emergency medical services that required action was drastically low over the last three days, said Blair Tyndall, EMS supervisor.

"I think they heeded the warnings" and stayed home, he said. "We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. This time, we got the best."

Most emergency calls over the past two days were from people who had fallen. Other calls were not storm related, he said. Although the county had a lot of traffic accidents, less than 10 of those calls had anybody who was injured.

Delbert Edwards of the communications center said the dispatchers received more phone calls than usual. A lot came from people who wanted information about road conditions. Monday was the busiest day with 1,500 calls. The average is 1,000 calls a day, he said, and fewer than the average number of calls actually led to someone being dispatched.

Hospital persevered

The staff at Wayne Memorial Hospital kept operations running during the ice storm this week.

Tom Bradshaw, vice president of operations, said the staff found ways to get to work, and once there, did super jobs.

"We had an excellent response from the staff," he said. "People were staying overnight in the hospital, sleeping wherever they could find a place, to take care of patients and relieve co-workers. Many worked 12-hour shifts."

He said many shared rides to work and about a half-dozen volunteers responded to the hospital's request to provide rides to and from work for staff members.

"That was very, very helpful, and we appreciated it," said Bradshaw. The ride service was through Tuesday.

As for the patient load during the three-day period, Bradshaw said, the majority of patients were treated for injuries from falls on the ice.

"Not that many came in from motor vehicle accidents," he said. "Most of them were broken arms. We did see an unusual number of fractures and injuries from falls."

He said the number of patients seen in the emergency department on Sunday was lower than usual, with 71 reported. About 114 patients were seen on Monday, which is a normal amount, and 162 patients were seen on Tuesday.

As for surgeries during the period, emergency procedures were done on Monday and elective surgeries were delayed. Some patients called and rescheduled Tuesday surgeries, and Bradshaw said the schedule is back on track today.

Thawing out

Mount Olive Town Hall opened this morning for the first day since the weekend. The town came through the ice storm "in flying colors," said Town Manager Ray McDonald.

Nobody was hurt. There were no wrecks besides a few who slid off the road, he said. "The town just shut down, for a change. It worked out good. Mount Olive came through great."

Maj. Ralph Schroeder, the assistant police chief in Mount Olive, says it was fairly quiet in town the past two days. Police helped the state Highway Patrol with one accident outside the city limits. The other calls were to escort two people to a nursing home.

Gaynelle Brock of the Southern Belle Restaurant walked into work at 9 a.m. today for the first time since Sunday afternoon when the parking lot started becoming "a sheet of ice." The crew closed after the lunch buffet and went home around 3:30 p.m. and stayed home.

She lives on a hill and had to back out of her drive to get to the road. "I like to have never got out," she said. She ran into one icy spot. "Other than that, it was pretty clear."

"People are flying," she added. "They're not slowing down. They're not as afraid of ice as I am."

Mike Bass of Bass Aviation at the Mount Olive Airport lives at a curve where seven cars landed in the ditch in front of his house. He stayed indoors.

Danny Carter in Seven Springs stayed home and built a sled for his children, except for when he was running a taxi service with his four-wheel drive to get folks to and from work.

"We're glad to see it gone," he said of the ice.

The roads were very icy Tuesday, he said.

He said a stretch of N.C. 55 was really bad between town and N.C. 903.

"It was terrible through there," he said. "It didn't matter what you were driving. You'd stay still and slide down the bank."

He turned around and returned home by another route.

Today was the first time Ola Mae Adams opened her Seven Springs Restaurant. The mayor, Jewel Kilpatrick, and town board member Elizabeth Quinn ventured out in the "Mayor Mobile," a golf cart that they said made the trip very well over the melting ice.

"It was kind of rough," said Ms. Kilpatrick, who was cold through it all. "Most of us stayed inside."

Good Samaritan

The Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross had a quiet three days but did manage to assist one homebound resident.

A woman called the chapter Monday frantic because her father needed medicine Sunday, and she had not been able to get out and get it.

Mrs. Bell said the woman's house has a ramp and assumed her father must be wheelchair bound. They had no other family living close enough to get out to get the medicine either.

The woman told Mrs. Bell that she had called the grocery store to see whether someone there could deliver her father's medicine, but the store could not spare anyone.

"This is not a service that the American Red Cross provides," said Mrs. Bell. "So I told the woman to give me a few minutes to see if I could find her some help."

Mrs. Bell called her husband, Ricky Bell, who works for the highway department. Even though this is not a service that the highway department offers, Ricky Bell picked up the medicine and delivered it to the woman's father.