Snowfall, hazards expected from winter weather system

Schools, road crews stand in heightened state of alert
Jan. 17, 2013 @ 05:08 PM

After enjoying some spring-like temperatures in recent weeks, area residents are now enduring the worst winter weather yet and could be facing treacherous commuting conditions this morning.

With rain expected to change to snow overnight Thursday into Friday, Meteorologist Barrett Smith with the National Weather Service in Raleigh said Lee County could be waking up today to 1-2 inches, perhaps more, of accumulation.

"Snow may come down heavy at times," Smith said, anticipating the change-over to snow to be complete by 10-11 p.m. Thursday. Any accumulation in Lee County is likely to be higher in the northern parts of the county, he said, and other nearby areas could see as much as 2-4 inches.

As of Thursday afternoon, The National Weather Service in Raleigh had placed sections of Central Carolina under a winter storm warning from 6 p.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday. According to an NWS advisory, in the affected areas, "most roads will initially remain wet but may become very slushy — especially where the heavier snowfall rates occur. Temperatures near or slightly below freezing by early Friday morning will lead to roads quickly becoming slick and hazardous."

"We urge folks to take it easy," Smith said. "Drive with caution, and look out for slick spots."

Roger Millikin with Lee County Emergency Services said county personnel are also watching the situation closely.

"There may be some power outages, and tomorrow morning we are expecting temperatures below freezing, so there could be black ice," he said.

A release from North Carolina's electric cooperatives said crews were poised to restore power as quickly as possible in the event of outages.

“The state’s 26 electric cooperatives are carefully monitoring this winter weather system and are prepared for possible power outages in the 93 counties served by the cooperatives,” said Jane Pritchard, director of corporate communications for the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives, in the release. A complete list of phone numbers to report outages, and a list of counties served by each co-op, is available at www.ncelectriccooperatives.com.

The City of Sanford's Public Works Department had readied it's machinery, according to Streets Superintendent Magda Holloway, who said the city's salt spreader was prepped and its five plows were mounted.

"We've got everything gassed up and ready to go," she said, adding, "most of our guys are local, so we keep everybody on standby." Local officials said other roads throughout the county would be monitored and maintained by the state Department of Transportation.

"In Lee County, they have sent the crews home and will be bringing them back about 7-8 (p.m.) tonight," NCDOT Spokesman Leah Friedman said Thursday.

Explaining the department's plan of action, she said, "if snow comes, there's more than an inch, they put down sand and salt, but unfortunately, they can't pretreat the roads because of the rain."

Area schools were likewise on standby status Thursday, waiting to see if the weather warranted closures. Lee County Schools officials reported that no decisions had been made regarding cancellations, and in a prepared statement, Chatham County Schools representatives said extracurricular and other after-school activities would go on as scheduled.

"Officials in Chatham County Schools are closely monitoring local weather forecasts Thursday and Friday due to the potential for inclement weather," according to the statement. "The district uses multiple communication methods with its families and employees in the event of a school delay or closing."

Representatives with both Lee and Chatham County school systems reported that families would be contacted through a phone alert system in the event of a closing. Chatham's statement noted that announcements are made through all district and school websites, by phone, on Facebook and Twitter, the district inclement weather phone line ((919) 542-3626) and local media.

At Central Carolina Community College, the AHS/GED graduation and men's basketball game planned for Thursday night were canceled "due to the possibility of inclement weather," according to the school's website. The graduation has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 30.

While temperatures Thursday night into Friday morning were expected to hover at or near freezing, Smith said they should increase slightly to the upper 30s to low 40s by Friday afternoon. The weekend forecast calls for a slight warm-up to about 50 degrees on Saturday and low-to-mid 50s on Sunday.