The first accumulating snow in more than two years swept through Saturday afternoon, making for dangerous driving conditions, but casting the region in a rare light while also releasing the inner Olympics hopeful in many of us.
One woman died in a weather-related automobile accident in Gaston County, emergency officials said. The woman, whose name has not been released, was standing on the side of the road in the 5400 block of York Highway after her car had spun out due to icy road conditions.
An SUV traveling on the road also spun out and fatally struck the woman while she was waiting for emergency crews to arrive, according to a spokesman for Crowders Mountain Fire and Rescue services.
Another person, 20-year-old Tatiana Rivera, was killed overnight in a wreck in south Charlotte. Police blamed that wreck on a combination of alcohol and icy conditions. The driver was arrested after being treated at a hospital, according to the report.
Bairon Josue Sandoval, 23, suffered minor injuries and was arrested for DWI, felony death by vehicle, felony serious injury by vehicle, and no operators license.
The snow, heralded in places by lightning and thunder, reached Charlotte around 4 p.m. Saturday and fell heavily for about an hour before tapering off to flurries into the evening hours.
Snow accumulations varied considerably, depending on whether a location was in the path of the stronger snow shower cells. There were reports of 4 inches from York County, and the National Weather Service said 3.5 inches was measured a few miles south of Gastonia.
But less than a half-inch accumulated in Mooresville. Across Lake Norman, the eastern Lincoln County community of Denver got 2.5 inches.
The snow came down heavily enough to overcome relatively warm ground temperatures and create some snow- and slush-covered roads in Charlotte and elsewhere across the region. That resulted, naturally, in a large number of wrecks.
Shortly after the heaviest snow fell, about 5:30 p.m., Charlotte-Mecklenburg police were dealing with about 45 wrecks. But shortly before 8 p.m., CMPD was dealing with only 13 collisions.
Duke Energy reported about 3,500 power outages at 7:45 p.m., mostly in the south Charlotte area. Most of that power was restored before 9 p.m.
Temperatures hovered in the mid-30s for much of the day but quickly fell to freezing when the heavy snow arrived. By Saturday evening, readings were slightly below freezing and headed downward. Forecasters predicted temperatures will tumble into the lower 20s by daybreak Sunday, with clearing expected overnight.
“Black ice will form in most locations,” said James Oh, of the National Weather Service’s office in Greer, S.C.
Local and state road crews were planning to deal with the ice.
Jen Thompson, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said the state would have 10 contract trucks and six DOT trucks treating bridges with a calcium brine solution – and, later in the evening, with salt.
“The crews will work until 3 a.m. Sunday, and then switch out workers to continue treating any ice spots,” Thompson said Saturday.
Linda Durrett, of the Charlotte Department of Transportation, said the city began operating a dozen trucks at 7 p.m. Saturday. The trucks would be prepared to spread salt on bridges and overpasses, along with hospital entrances and any other areas where ice forms.
“Citizens can report icy road conditions by calling 311,” Durrett said.
There were plenty of traffic problems Saturday afternoon and evening. As the snow showers moved into the foothills northwest of Charlotte, numerous wrecks were reported on Interstate 40 between Statesville and Hickory. The road was closed for short times during the mid-afternoon hours.
Dozens of churches in the Charlotte region canceled early morning services Sunday.
Forecasters had a tough time predicting how much snow would fall, and some meteorologists were predicting little or none in the Charlotte area..
The last measurable snow was a half-inch on Jan. 13, 2011.
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