Part of the Charlotte area missed the snow from the first winter storm of the season, but black ice and several days of frigid cold will affect much of the Carolinas, emergency officials warn.
Ice and snow that melted Saturday afternoon when temperatures struggled to the freezing mark were expected to refreeze overnight. That will cause black ice Sunday morning, and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper warned drivers to stay off the roads through the weekend.
“Travel conditions are still hazardous. Do not be fooled by the sun,” Cooper said at a Saturday afternoon news conference. “We’ve lost too many lives recently during hazardous weather conditions and disasters, when people have gotten in their cars and driven when they should not have.”
Road crews continued to work through Saturday. N.C. transportation officials said they’d gone through 32,000 tons of de-icing material by late afternoon.
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Citing concerns about fans driving on bad roads, officials at N.C. State and the University of North Carolina called off their schedule men’s basketball game Saturday night in Chapel Hill. It was rescheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Snow, ice expected to refreeze
Temperatures were expected to drop into single digits by daybreak Sunday, with readings even a few degrees colder Monday. Some Piedmont and Foothills counties northwest of Charlotte could have temperatures near zero at daybreak Monday, forecasters said.
Accumulating snow from the storm fell mostly to the north and northwest of Interstate 85. About 2-3 inches was reported in Charlotte’s Highland Creek area, with 5.5 inches measured in Huntersville, according to the National Weather Service. Accumulations of 8-11 inches were common in Cleveland, Lincoln, Iredell, Catawba, Caldwell and Rowan counties.
To the southeast of I-85, a mix of rain, sleet and freezing rain fell during most of the storm, although light snow moved across that area Saturday morning, adding a coat of white to the icy surfaces left by the sleet.
Cooper and other officials said they feared melting snow and ice would make roadways treacherous Sunday morning and possibly again Monday morning.
State officials reported more than 700 crashes, well above the usual number, but no fatalities were noted as of early Saturday evening.
A state of emergency was declared across the Carolinas by Govs. Cooper and Nikki Haley on Friday.
Despite the storm’s under-performance as a snow-maker in Charlotte, it is helping drag some of the coldest air in years into the Carolinas.
The Weather Service predicted Charlotte morning lows of 11 Sunday and 8 degrees Monday. Temperatures aren’t expected to go above freezing again until midday Tuesday, meteorologists said.
‘Not so happy’
The split-personality storm dumped anywhere from 1 to 10 inches across North Carolina.
The cold air that surged into the Carolinas on Saturday morning arrived too late for the precipitation to fall as snow in many locations near and south of the I-85 corridor.
North of Charlotte, though, residents awoke to see the snow.
“I’m guessing that probably half of the residents across the area are happy with us right now, and the other half not so happy,” Trisha Palmer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C., said Saturday.
Power outage problems
Nearly a quarter-inch of ice accumulated on exposed surfaces in Matthews and western Union County, downing power lines and causing the highest number of power outages in the Charlotte area.
A transformer failure was blamed for an outage that affected about 7,900 Union County customers, and about 4,500 Matthews-area customers also were without power for a time Saturday.
Matthews police reported a tree fell across Idlewild Road, blocking the roadway between Rice Road and N.C. 51 and bringing down power lines. Another fallen tree blocked Pleasant Plains Road in Matthews on Saturday afternoon.
About 2,430 Duke Energy customers in North Carolina and 430 in South Carolina remained without power late Saturday afternoon, By 5 p.m. there were about 1,000 in Mecklenburg County. About 27,000 Duke customers were without power at one point Saturday morning.
Time Warner Cable internet and cable outages also were reported in Charlotte.
Even in areas where the precipitation was mostly sleet and freezing rain, it produced problems for drivers.
Motorists across south Charlotte could be seen pulling over Saturday morning to deal with ice-coated windshields.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and the N.C. Highway Patrol reported a larger-than- usual number of collisions Friday night and Saturday. As of 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Medic said it had responded to 67 wrecks since 10 p.m. Friday.
“Overpasses and ramps are challenging areas,” Medic tweeted.
But Medic said it responded to far fewer wrecks than it did during the rain-slickened conditions of Dec. 27, when it dealt with 120 wrecks.
Storm cancels flights
The storm also caused a number of postponements and cancellations, including flights in and out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
The airport was open Saturday, but 53 flights were delayed and 175 were canceled as of late afternoon Saturday. The airport said about 70 planes were de-iced Friday, and de-icing continued Saturday morning.
The runway at Concord Regional Airport was closed Saturday as crews treated the airfield for snow and ice.
The Charlotte Area Transit System’s CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar service was suspended Saturday due to street conditions. All other CATS services operated on normal schedules.
Depending on road conditions, some Observer customers may experience a delay in delivery of their paper Sunday. Carriers will make every effort to deliver your newspaper as quickly and safely as possible.
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Adam Bell, Cristina Bolling, Steve Harrison, Jim Morrill and Mike Reader contributed