01/21/09 — STORY AND NEWS VIDEO: Snow closes some stores, gets blame for traffic mishaps

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STORY AND NEWS VIDEO: Snow closes some stores, gets blame for traffic mishaps

By Anessa Myers, Steve Herring, Phyllis Moore, Catharin Shepard and Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 21, 2009 1:46 PM

News-Argus Video Report


Langley Barnes, 7, slides down a hill off Park Avenue in Goldsboro Tuesday, one of many Wayne County residents who decided to play in the snow that fell most of the day. Many local businesses closed their doors as travel along the county's roadways became hazardous.


Brandon LeClerc, left, tosses a pizza at the counter in Papa John's Tuesday afternoon. Papa John's and a few other food service businesses stayed open through the snow.

Wayne County residents were working today to dig out from under the 4 inches of snow that fell Tuesday, shutting down businesses and causing dozens of minor accidents from Mount Olive to Fremont.

A winter storm dumped at least 4 inches of snow across the county and most of eastern North Carolina, with the white stuff freezing overnight and making driving conditions slippery through today.

Skies had cleared by early today and although temperatures were expected to drop below freezing again tonight, the weather is expected to moderate soon, with highs Thursday in the upper 40s. On Friday, temperatures are expected to reach the mid-50s.

The snow forced a number of closings on Tuesday and delayed openings today.

But United States Postal Service workers had to be on time at the same time they always do. An employee at the William Street location said that that office and the one on Cashwell Drive were open regular hours Tuesday and would also be keeping regular hours today.

The post office wasn't the only thing that stayed open normal hours.

Shoppers could still pick up a few items at several stores, including Target, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

Most area banks and credit unions closed early on Tuesday. Many had reopened today.

Today's morning session of Wayne County District Court was canceled and will resume at 1:30 p.m. along with all other court operations.

County offices will open at noon and close at 5 p.m. while the landfill will remain closed as normal on Wednesday.

One group of people that normally drives around helping others was also told to stay home Tuesday and today -- the Meals on Wheels volunteers. Dr. Marlee Ray, executive director of Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency which takes care of the meals program, said that the program is based solely on volunteer participation, and WAGES officials couldn't ask those volunteers to take a risk out on the roads.

But the senior citizens that would normally take a meal weren't left out in the cold, she said. WAGES officials contacted all of their meal recipients to let them know that they would not be serving food.

"We also called many of them to check on them and alerted their family members so they would know to check on them, too," she said.

Meals on Wheels will be serving food Thursday, and volunteers' morning starts will be very early to make sure all of the senior citizens in the program have food and are taken care of, Ms. Ray said.

A number of businesses decided to close up shop early on Tuesday to make sure their employees could drive home safely, but there were some that stayed open longer or didn't cut back hours at all.

And many out on the road found themselves sliding into ditches or other vehicles.

Goldsboro police and Highway Patrol officers were very busy throughout Tuesday.

Several city accidents involved two cars or more, but most were fender benders.

"We had a couple of vehicles turned over, but we haven't had any serious injuries," Police Maj. Michael Hopper.

Police asked residents to stay home as much as they could Tuesday and even Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

"We are really concerned with black ice on Wednesday and Thursday," Hopper said Tuesday afternoon. "People need to put off getting out (Wednesday) as late as possible."

"The streets in Goldsboro are in good condition, but many have areas where ice can be a problem such as at intersections and in low areas," Capt. J.J. Biggins said.

The area in front of Greenwood and Meadow Lane schools on Ash Street is "badly covered in ice," he added, and a request has been made to the state Department of Transportation -- since it is a state-maintained road -- to take care of the problem.

Between 10:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Goldsboro police officers investigated a total of 15 traffic accidents.

That number didn't include the 34 accidents that resulted in property damage, like damaged vehicles, mailboxes and guardrails.

Highway Patrol troopers had responded to more than 30 accidents by mid-afternoon Tuesday.

"The majority involved people driving too fast and running off of the road into ditches," said patrol Sgt. K.W. Cooke. "Only a few were injury wrecks. So far it has just been bumps and bruises, no major injuries."

Most were one-vehicle accidents that didn't warrant reports, only a tow out of a ditch, he said.

Most of the accidents occurred on U.S. 117 South in the southern end of the county where weather and road conditions appeared to worsen more quickly that in the northern area, he said.

Improving weather conditions should help road crews that have applied 59,000 gallons of salt brine and nearly 120 tons of salt since Monday morning.

"We did a good job yesterday on the four-lanes keeping them driveable," said Luther Thompson, DOT county maintenance supervisor. "There are still a couple of icy spots on some bridges and ramps and we will keep four trucks on those roads today."

The remaining workers will be split into groups to concentrate on the N.C. routes and secondary roads that are still covered with snow and ice.

"We hope to have them all covered by this afternoon," Thompson said.

He said he planned to keep some workers on duty Wednesday night.

Roads in the southern part of the county appeared in the worst shape and it appeared to be the section of the county that had received more snow, he said.

The salt brine tank has been available to the local crew since last year, but this week was the first time Thompson has been able to see how effective it is.

"The salt brine tank was operational last year and each time snow was predicted we treated the roads, but then it never snowed," he said.

The brine-treated roads turn the snow to slush making it easier for it to be pushed by the graders. Brine applied on top of the snow has the same effect.

"I think it worked great," Thompson said. "I think it helped to speed up the time it takes us to clean up the roads."

Wayne County Sheriff's deputies also received their share of calls.

"Most calls have concerned children playing in the street, but nothing serious," Chief Deputy Ray Smith said Tuesday afternoon. "We have taken as many calls as possible over the phone and we have been helping other law enforcement as much as we can today.

Smith said deputies were paired together in four-wheel drive vehicles.

Wayne County Emergency Services Director Joe Gurley, who is suffering from a cold, had been out since 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

"The majority of what we have seen are wrecks where people are not used to driving in conditions like this and not adhering to the conditions out there," he said.

"During the peak we probably had 40 wreck calls at the 911 center. We were posturing ourselves for specific periods of time after seeing the reports from the National Weather Service that snow would be here about midday."

Gurley said additional EMS crews were on duty Tuesday evening as well as additional personnel in the 911 center

"Everyone needs to be extremely cautious (about black ice) in the morning. The condition won't improve to the point that we would like to see it until probably Friday," he said.

City officials decided to close government offices around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, with only essential personnel -- fire, police and public works employees -- still working.

They also delayed opening of offices today until 10 a.m.

The City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. was canceled, but council members will convene Friday at noon for a special meeting to at least discuss a utility improvement grant submission, City Manager Joe Huffman said.

Students in Wayne County Public Schools were already on a break until Thursday, with the exception of two schools that operate on the same schedule as Wayne Community College -- Wayne Early/Middle College High School and the School of Engineering. Tuesday and today were designated workdays for teachers and staff.

The snow and possibility of icy roadways prompted officials to close the schools Tuesday, leaving teachers with the option of coming in to work. Mid-morning, the decision was made to send staff home, said Ken Derksen, public information officer for the district.

Classes were also canceled today, again leaving staff with the option of working on a two-hour delay, taking an annual leave or personal day, a day without pay or making up the time later, he said.

The freedom from classes sent hundreds of children outdoors to sled and make snowmen.

When Wanda Whitfield's office, Wayne Dental, closed at noon, she took her daughter Brook Amery, 13, and friend Nicole Adams, 8, to the winter wonderland of Stoney Creek Park and other sledding hot spots around Goldsboro.

"I like it as long as the wind's not blowing," she said, watching the girls play in the soft powder. "And it's not too cold."

The sudden appearance of the snow flakes sent residents scurrying to buy essentials.

Milk, bread, eggs and movies were on shoppers' minds Tuesday and de-icer had already run out at Lowes and Wal-Mart as of Monday night.