Heavy snow began falling across the Charlotte region Wednesday evening, causing slick roads and forcing most area schools to close Thursday.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service expect 6 to 8 inches of snow in the Charlotte area, and 8 to 10 inches east of Union County, before the system moves out Thursday morning.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was among the districts to announce that classes are canceled Thursday. No makeup day will be needed for CMS students.
At 10 p.m., snow was falling heavily across the region, creating visibility problems for some drivers.
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Doug Outlaw, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said temperatures hovered at or above freezing for longer than anticipated Wednesday night, which meant less snow stuck to roads.
Monroe was at 33 degrees just after 10 p.m. Lincolnton was 34 and Gastonia and Charlotte were both at 33.
Another bit of good news: The snow will change to rain around sunrise Thursday, Outlaw said, washing away some of the snow and decreasing the chance of ice on the roads.
In uptown Charlotte, wet, heavy flakes were falling and beginning to stick to slushy roads. In Lincoln County, about half an inch had fallen by 9 p.m.
In Hickory, streets were mostly wet and passable, though some slick spots appeared to be forming on roads. In Cornelius just before 10:30 p.m., about an inch of snow had fallen. Rock Hill, meanwhile, was switching between snow and cold rain.
In Fort Mill, after a period of extremely heavy snow around 7:30 p.m., the precipitation switched to rain, washing away a layer of snow on the roads. At 9:30 p.m. light snow began falling again.
Local authorities advised people to stay off the roads as much as possible. Still, police in Charlotte had responded to about 25 traffic collisions around the time the snow started.
American Airlines suspended all flights after 9 p.m. at Charlotte’s airport.
Chester County, S.C. and Union County are expected to get 8 to 10 inches. Lincoln, Gaston, Cabarrus and the southern portion of Iredell County are expected to get 6 to 8 inches.
Thursday’s temperatures will only reach the mid-30s. “What does melt will refreeze as black ice Thursday night,” Dixon said, as temperatures drop to the upper 20s.
Friday will be partly sunny with highs in the low 40s, allowing for partial melting.
Charlotte and Mecklenburg officials urged people to stay off the roads if possible during the storm.
“Expect disruptions, expect delays, expect the possibility of hazardous conditions,” said City Manager Ron Carlee, speaking at a late afternoon news conference with other area officials. “If you don’t have to go out, don’t.”
Also at the press conference:
▪ The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s tournament will continue as scheduled for now, CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said. A radio program was canceled for early Thursday, and there is a two-hour delay for the career expo.
▪ Duke Energy urged people to call 800-POWER-ON to report outages.
Crews with the N.C. Department of Transportation and Charlotte DOT treated the roads ahead of the storm. Putting brine down helps prevent ice and snow from bonding to the pavement, N.C. DOT spokeswoman Jordan-Ashley Walker said.
After the snow ends, no brining is done – it is strictly a plowing operation, Walker said. Plowing will start while it is still snowing, but exactly when remains unclear.
“As soon as we see roads are getting accumulation on them, we’ll go out there,” Walker said.
At the Charlotte DOT, which also did brining, plows will come out to hit the main roads, hospital entrances, emergency sites and collector streets, spokeswoman Doreen Szymanski said.
CDOT has 32 trucks, 64 crew members and support staff to deal with the snow, and N.C. DOT will have 70 contract trucks and 34 N.C. DOT trucks in Mecklenburg County alone.
In Anson, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Stanly and Union counties, N.C. DOT will have more than 90 DOT workers and about 70 contractors working.
The Charlotte Area Transit System will run bus service for as long as possible. Lynx light rail has placed staff on 12-hour shifts. Transit riders should visit the CATS website at www.ridetransit.org for updates and schedule changes.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport employees were working to de-ice aircraft and prepare taxiways, runways, ramp areas, airport roadways, bridges, overpasses and parking areas for possible bad weather, said Lee Davis, airport spokeswoman.
“We know stranded passengers are an inevitability,” Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle said.
Local officials reminded people to open cabinet doors under their sinks to let warm air through to prevent freezing pipes.
Staff writers Michael Gordon, Dan Duffey, Deon Roberts, Hope Paasch and Mark Price contributed.
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