Winter storm brings snow, sleet

mhankerson@newsobserver.com, amoody@newsobserver.comFebruary 14, 2014 

— Two waves of wintry weather last week left most of the Triangle scrambling to recover but eastern Wake County got through the storm relatively unscathed despite a heavy snowfall.

As of noon Thursday, the National Weather Service’s Raleigh branch indicated the eastern Wake County area saw 4 to 5 inches of snow. A reading in Knightdale was 4.5 inches and in Wendell 4.3 inches.

Ice totals were significantly less at that time.

“We pretty much got something everywhere in eastern Wake County, but it looks like the ice accrual was a tenth of an inch or less,” said Meteorologist Ryan Ellis.

Ellis expected the area would pick up as much as three more inches of snow during the second band Thursday afternoon.

Knightdale began brining roads Tuesday morning, a day before the worst of the snowstorm was supposed to start.

The state treats Knightdale Blvd., I-540, US-64, Hodge Road, Smithfield Road and Poole Road and the town handles the rest of the roads in the town.

According to a release from North Carolina Department of Transportation explaining its process for clearing roads, brining is more effective than going over icy roads with other types of treatment.

Brining roads can be done up to 48 hours before snow starts accumulating, as long as the temperature stays above 18 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no rain. It is also cheaper than using only salt and it’s better on cars and the environment, the release said.

Brine, a mixture of salt and water, only costs about 15 cents per gallon, which will cover about a mile of road. It would take almost $15 of rock salt to treat one mile of road.

Knightdale’s Town Hall closed around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday and remained closed through Thursday.

In Wendell, Police Chief Bill Carter said the worst of the storm seemed to skip the town.

Wednesday afternoon, he said the department had responded to a handful of accidents and there was some traffic on Wendell Boulevard, but there were no extreme conditions besides the weather.

“People seem to have recognized how severe this storm had the potential to be,” Carter said.

The town did some plowing Wednesday but Carter said they would wait for more of the storm to move through the area before doing any other sort of road work.

The winter storm, which included snow and sleet, started south of the Triangle Tuesday night and hit the area around noon on Wednesday. After about three hours of snow, the storm tapered off before it was set to return Thursday afternoon.

In the meantime, he said the best thing residents could do is stay in one place and not try to travel.

“We are encouraging people to ... get where they’re going and stay there,” he said.

For some in the Triangle, that wasn’t an option and reports of stranded motorists prompted the county to open emergency shelters for drivers who couldn’t make it home.

The county opened a shelter at Knightdale High School Wednesday night but closed it Thursday at noon because it wasn’t being used.

According to Knightdale Communications Director Brian Bowman, town and county emergency crews checked on stranded cars and didn’t find anyone who needed to be moved to the shelter.

In other parts of the county, town crews required help from the National Guard to check on drivers who were stuck on interstates and other major roads.

In Zebulon, Public Works Director Chris Ray said it seemed like the wintry weather was a week-long affair for his crew.

“We started preparing like it was coming Tuesday, then Tuesday turned into Wednesday and Wednesday turned into Thursday,” Ray said. “It was definitely a lot more difficult to predict because of the two weather systems.”

Brine was applied to all town streets Tuesday in preparation for the storm. The town began plowing around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after traffic died down.

Three plowing crews stayed on the job until 1 a.m. Thursday, and one crew continued to plow Zebulon’s streets until 7 a.m. Thursday.

Ray said the town’s streets were all passable as of noon on Thursday, as he waited on a second wave of snow. He said getting less ice than expected Wednesday evening helped make that possible.

“Were very glad for that fact,” Ray said. “The roads are in real good shape, and we’re real pleased.”

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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