02/27/04 — Mother Nature brings wintry mix

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Mother Nature brings wintry mix

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on February 27, 2004 1:59 PM

Snow buried Wayne County in a blanket of white Thursday, but the county was likely to escape a second round that piled up more snow today on areas east of Interstate 95.

Snowfall amounts across the county ranged from 4 to 7 inches from the storm that began early Thursday and tapered off around 3 p.m. Schools closed shortly after opening; many businesses followed suit. Drivers found themselves stuck in drifts or ditches as roads became a navigation nightmare. Accidents blocked traffic on several main roads including U.S. 117 South and N.C. 581 North.

Flipped Truck

Bobby Williams

This one-vehicle mishap occurred on Emmaus Church Road just past Sleepy Creek Road. No one was hurt.

Most Wayne County schools closed for a second day today and many businesses delayed opening. Wayne Memorial Hospital went back to routine status after following its inclement weather policy for employees.

Stagestruck's "Fiddler on the Roof" production will go on as scheduled tonight.

Frozen rain coated trees and other surfaces early this morning but caused few problems on roads, where snow had started to melt. Little if any frozen precipitation was expected later today, and clouds were to clear out this evening.

With low temperatures forecast to be in the 20s, bridges and overpasses could become coated with black ice and motorists should be cautious if traveling tonight or early Saturday morning.

In other areas of the state, record snow piled up overnight. Today's round of the winter storm brought deep snow, and hundreds of drivers were stranded on an interstate blocked by truck wrecks.

Two tractor-trailers jackknifed in separate accidents in the northbound lanes of Interstate 85 in Randolph County during the night, bringing traffic to a halt as the snow piled up. Some motorists were escorted by the state Highway Patrol to motels to get out of the cold, but not everyone.

Officers estimated that as many as 400 cars were stranded as snow piled up around them while they waited for the interstate to clear.

"Most have opted to stay with their vehicles until the wrecker can get to them to get them going again," Donovan Davis, Randolph County deputy director of emergency services, said in a telephone interview early this morning.

The trucks were removed and traffic began flowing on the north-south interstate before dawn, Davis said.

In eastern North Carolina, the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 were closed until about 1:30 a.m. after a truck carrying chocolate Easter bunnies wrecked.

The snow collected over wet roads that froze in some spots overnight.

"Don't let the roadways fool you. There is a thin sheen of slush or ice," said 1st Sgt. Everett Clendenin, a state Highway Patrol spokesman. "These conditions we have today are a lot worse than we had yesterday."

In Charlotte, a record 11.6 inches fell Thursday, breaking the old high mark of 6.5 inches set in 1926 -- and more snow fell early today.

The total snowfall from Thursday through this morning ranged from 12 inches to 18 inches in the Winston-Salem and Greensboro area; 6 inches to 8 inches in the Raleigh-Durham area, and 1 inch to 4 inches further east around Rocky Mount and Wilson.

Raleigh-Durhan International Airport remained open, spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said.

Charlotte/Douglas International Airport was open this morning despite 15 inches of snow in less than a day, spokeswoman Haley Gentry said. The airport is one of three hubs for US Airways and has about 470 daily departures.

"We haven't had many flights coming this morning but we do have some going," Gentry said.

About 500 to 700 travelers were stranded and spent the night in the airport's terminals.

"A lot of people were actually aboard their aircraft and due to weather conditions could not take off," Gentry said.

On the eastern coastal plain and shoreline, gale warnings were posted with gusts expected of up to 40 mph. Rain, sleet and a few flurries fell in some areas, puddling next to snow banks on freshly plowed roads.

Utilities across the state reported no problems with service Thursday.

The roads were another matter.

The storm closed schools and businesses across the state Thursday and forced the White House to cancel a visit by President Bush to a fund-raiser in Charlotte.

Several school systems planned to close for a second day today, including Cabarrus, Davidson, Harnett, Hoke, Kannapolis, Rowan-Salisbury, Stanly and Wake counties.

Fort Bragg advised its nonessential workers to stay home today and said the post schools and other facilities would be closed.

Jean Matthews, assistant manager of a Taco Bell in Sanford, said she worked a double shift Thursday because five of her employees called in "weather."