The snow started falling early Wednesday afternoon, turned to sleet and freezing rain overnight, and didn’t let up until around 2 p.m. Thursday, bringing life in the city to a frozen standstill for more than a day.
By the time it ended, the Charlotte Area Transit System had given up on efforts to get buses through slick roads, police had responded to hundreds of wrecks and abandoned vehicles, and US Airways had canceled all arriving flights for the day.
The biggest concern officials had to contend with were the roads. City, state and private plowing crews were working “around the clock,” said Danny Pleasant, director of the Charlotte Department of Transportation. “We’ve still got several days of clearing ahead of us.”
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After dozens of cars got stuck on slippery roads Wednesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe said fewer people drove on Charlotte streets Thursday.
“The public is heeding the warning and staying put, although we are dealing with a lot of abandoned, disabled vehicles,” he said.
State officials said slippery roads were to blame for fatal traffic crashes Tuesday in Moore County and Wednesday in Chatham County. And they said a person in Pender County was killed by a falling tree limb.
In Mecklenburg during the storm, Charlotte fire Chief Jon Hannan said firefighters had put out “three structure fires, although there were no serious injuries.” He said firefighters had also worked to clear downed tree limbs and power lines.
The weight of the heavy snow proved too much for some buildings to handle. Gastonia fire officials say a warehouse on the property of Beverly Knits, on Garfield Drive, collapsed shortly before 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
In Indian Trail, two aviaries at the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue facility collapsed. Officials said the collapse, blamed on accumulated snow and ice, killed at least one bird.
Police had responded to a smaller number of wrecks than normal, but Monroe said the 232 vehicle collisions were mostly related to the weather. No one was seriously injured.
Observer staff writers Joe DePriest, Joe Marusak and Roland Wilkerson contributed.