Threat of black ice remains in Charlotte area

Traffic moved well along Prosperity Church Road at White Cascade Drive as main roads were mostly slush. Trees in the University area were weighed down by a wet and heavy snow on their branches on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015.
Traffic moved well along Prosperity Church Road at White Cascade Drive as main roads were mostly slush. Trees in the University area were weighed down by a wet and heavy snow on their branches on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

While the Charlotte area escaped what was expected to be a major snowstorm overnight Thursday, city road officials warned that black ice will remain a threat overnight Friday and Saturday as roads refreeze.

“It will freeze during the night, so expect some increase in black ice,” Danny Pleasant, director of the Charlotte Department of Transportation, said at a news conference on Thursday afternoon to review the city’s response to Thursday’s storm.

The storm didn’t deliver the eight or more inches of snow that Charlotte braced for. Snowfall amounts were greater northwest and east of the city.

“We’re really happily disappointed by the storm,” Deputy Charlotte Fire Chief Rob Kinniburgh said. He said the fire department responded to its normal amount of calls for service overnight, most of them medical.

A high-pressure system pushed the storm front a bit farther north, into north Mecklenburg, Kinniburgh said.

Storm totals

That explains why the southern part of Mecklenburg County saw 1 to 2 inches, while northern parts got 3 to 4 inches.

Mooresville had 4 inches, Hickory 3 to 3 3/4 inches, and Icard in Burke County 4 1/2 inches.

Areas northeast of the city and Interstate 85 also got 4 to 6 inches, as did the Foothills to the west.

South of Belmont in Gaston County reported just 1.5 inches.

Lake Wylie, S.C., in northern York County, got about 1 inch. At 7:30 a.m., major roads there were moving well, but smaller roads were still slushy.

The storm covered most secondary roads in the region with snow into Thursday morning and afternoon.

At 9 a.m., Charlotte crews continued to clear streets, sidewalks and neighborhoods. Solid Waste Services is working on a two-hour delay.

In Gaston County, interstates and primary roads were still covered with snow and ice as of 9 a.m., the state reported. Primary roads in Lincoln County also were covered with snow and ice.

Concord reported that all of its major roads were clear by 7:30 a.m., although unplowed streets were slushy later in the morning.

Snow-clearing crews had progressed to secondary and neighborhood streets and would continue all day until all were clear.

Temperatures were 32 or 33 degrees on Thursday morning, so the state said it was salting highways again before rush hour.

“Temperatures remain high, so it helps us make progress on the slushy roads,” Division 10 of the state Department of Transportation said on Twitter. The division includes Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union and Stanly counties.

As long as the temperature stays above 32, “roads will see more melting” later Thursday, said Patrick Moore, a meteorologist with National Weather Service.

Thousands without power

The storm also knocked out power to thousands of Duke Energy customers in the Charlotte region, including: 4,956 customers in Rowan County; 4,191 in Iredell County, including about 2,000 in Mooresville; 1,764 in Gaston County; and 753 in Mecklenburg County.

By 2 p.m., those numbers had fallen to 1,469 in Rowan, 36 in Iredell, 765 in Gaston, 12 in Catawba and 20 in Mecklenburg.

Heavy, wet snow caused problems in the Caldwell County service area of Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp., where outages climbed to over 400 by 8 a.m. The number fell to 96 in Caldwell and Wilkes counties by 11 a.m., as crews repaired lines.

No outages were reported as of 11 a.m. in the mountain counties of the cooperative’s service area. But power “blinks” were expected throughout the day Thursday, as snow fell off lines, causing them to “slap” together. Anyone who loses power entirely should call 1-800-448-2383.

In all, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives reported 14,475 outages, primarily in the central part of the state, with Davidson, Durham, Orange and Wake counties impacted most.

The electric cooperatives have been at work for hours restoring power, and they expect significant progress as the day continues.

Duke Energy outages were far worse in the Raleigh-Durham area. As of 2 p.m., Wake County had 55,291 homes without power, down from 89,571, and Durham County had 29,082, down from 35,610.

CATS buses on detour

CATS buses were on detour Thursday and operating on main roads only.

CATS rail ran on a normal schedule.

Check RideTransit.org for updates.

Wreck closes I-77 lanes

A wreck, meanwhile, closed two of the four lanes of I-77 northbound near Arrowood Road, Exit 3, early Thursday.

The wreck happened shortly before 6:30 a.m. One of the lanes reopened shortly before 7 a.m., but it took until about 8 a.m. for the scene to clear. Congestion remained as of 8:30 a.m.

Temperatures to remain cool

Temperatures are forecast to remain relatively cold through the weekend, under mostly cloudy skies.

Thursday’s high is forecast to reach only 38 degrees, Friday’s 41, Saturday’s 38 and Sunday’s 41.

A chance of rain returns Sunday night and Monday, when the high is expected to reach a more seasonable 57.

Observer staff Ann Allen, Cheryl Carpenter, Dan Duffey, Ann Doss Helms and Roland Wilkerson and The (Rock Hill) Herald contributed.

Marusak: 704-358-5067;

Twitter: @jmarusak

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