Weathering the freeze

Safety stressed as area descends into deep chill
Jan. 06, 2014 @ 05:32 PM

With the temperature dropping today and not expected to get much above freezing until Friday, people in the central part of the state are likely going to be hunkering down inside unless they absolutely need to go out.

And before drivers hit the road in possibly icy conditions, they are advised to take some precautions.

Grant Page, manager at Smith Family Automotive in Jonesboro, said people who have done routine maintenance on their vehicles should be fine. But for those who don't know the status of their brakes, fluids or tires, he said, it's important to check — especially with tires.

"A lot of people will come in when they slide that first time and notice their treads are worn," Page said. "But sometimes, it's too late."

Adequate treads are also helpful for getting out of patches of snow or ice, he said. For those who plan to do a lot of driving in the snow, he added, it might also be good to lower tire pressure by as much as 10 pounds. But in local areas, unless a freak storm hits leaving snow on the ground for days, Page said tires will probably be fine at normal inflation levels.

"Out here, it's not really necessary if it's only going to be in snow for a day or two because it can shorten the life of the tire," he said.

And while it is going to be the kind of cold normally seen in cities hundreds of miles north of here, there will probably not be the types of snowstorms which have shut down those same cities recently.

There's little chance of precipitation during the freeze that's expected, and workers at the N.C, Department of Transportation's maintenance office in Lee County said they would do spot work to de-ice roads where necessary — but that they didn't have any plans to do wide-ranging preventative work.

Roads and vehicles aren't the only things that need extra attention when it gets cold. Pets are also going to be very vulnerable in the next few days, said veterinarian Meghan Ellis of Family Veterinary Hospital near downtown Sanford — especially since there hasn't been any time for them to acclimate to the suddenly freezing weather.

"Number one, bring them in," she said. "If that's not possible, they definitely need dry shelter from the elements. Hay and blankets work pretty well, but you might also want to invest in a heater."

There are special heating pads for animal shelters, she said. But even someplace like an unheated garage would be better than outdoors. An animal who is getting dangerously cold will walk funny or seem slower than normal, she said. And once they get too cold, they could slip into a coma from which it's unlikely they would recover. The trick is to keep them dry.

"They should be wearing something waterproof because once they get wet, that's the end of it," Ellis said. "The key is warm and dry, but it's really dry that's the main thing."

It's not just pets people are concerned about keeping warm and dry. The public schools in Lee, Moore, Chatham and Harnett counties announced two-hour delays for Tuesday; there was no word as of Monday afternoon about any delays on Wednesday or Thursday.

On Monday morning, hundreds of people in Lee County woke up without electricity. All but 15 customers of Central Electric Membership Corporation had their power restored by about 10:15 a.m., however, and of the more than 300 Duke Energy Progress customers who were without power at around 10 a.m., almost all had it restored within an hour or so. A single customer was without power until late Monday afternoon, according to an outage map the company updated throughout the day.