The Carolinas’ bout with wintry weather will continue Monday with more frigid temperatures and a host of school closings, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg system.
Citing concerns about potentially hazardous road and parking lot conditions in areas that received snow and sleet from the storm, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and many other systems to the north and west of Charlotte called off classes for Monday.
Meanwhile, state officials in North Carolina urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel and be wary of black ice Monday morning.
“The Highway Patrol has seen a spike in accidents today,” N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said in a Sunday afternoon news conference. “The sun has melted a little bit of the ice. But it will refreeze Sunday night.”
In the North Carolina mountains, two hikers – one of them identified as a Charlotte man – were rescued from rugged terrain and waist-deep snow Saturday evening.
And the wintry weather claimed its first North Carolina victim, a motorist who died late Sunday morning in an ice-caused crash in Montgomery County.
Temperatures were forecast to fall to near 10 degrees at daybreak Monday in Charlotte – the coldest since a 7-degree low on Feb. 20, 2015. Even colder temperatures were forecast to the north, where a thick snowpack remains largely intact.
Forecasters said temperatures would climb only to freezing Monday, the same level they reached Sunday in Charlotte. A warming trend is predicted to commence Tuesday, when highs are expected to reach the lower 40s.
Treacherous road conditions also are reported in the northwest corner of South Carolina, where up to a half-foot of snow fell in the storm.
Frigid cold continues
Temperatures at daybreak Sunday were mostly in the teens across the region, with Charlotte recording a low of 14.
But readings were as low as 4 degrees in Salisbury and 9 in Albemarle. Forecasters said areas that received snow Friday and Saturday could see temperatures near zero by Monday morning.
The beach provided no escape. Temperatures fell into the upper teens from Wilmington to Myrtle Beach – the coldest readings there in two years.
While only 1 inch of snow fell in Charlotte and just a dusting in southern Mecklenburg County, more than 5 inches was recorded in Huntersville. Snowfall of 6-10 inches was common across Lincoln, Catawba, Caldwell, Alexander, Iredell and Rowan counties.
With temperatures struggling to reach freezing Sunday, much of the snow did not melt.
Authorities warned homeowners to protect plumbing against the extended cold. In many parts of the region, temperatures were expected to be below freezing for up to 84 hours.
There were a number of social media reports in the Charlotte area Sunday of residents whose water pipes had frozen or burst. Officials suggested homeowners keep cabinet doors under sinks open at night, allowing warmer air to circulate near the pipes.
CMS plays it safe
At 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced that students and staff would not report to school Monday. For schools on the traditional calendar, the make-up day for students will be Feb. 17. That is a Friday and would have been the start of a four-day Presidents Day weekend break.
“While many roadways and CMS campuses are clear, weather reports indicate there may be black ice and refreezing, which could cause roads to be unsafe during the early morning,” CMS officials said on their website. “The severe weather and road conditions also make it very challenging for school staff who live in northern Mecklenburg and surrounding counties to get to work.”
All North Carolina systems in the Charlotte area except Union and Anson will be closed Monday. Union and Anson students will report on a delayed schedule.
A rescue, a fatality
The traffic fatality Sunday happened in Montgomery County shortly before noon.
Cooper said a motorist’s vehicle slid off the highway after hitting an icy patch and slammed into a tree. One person died, and two others were injured.
Meanwhile, a Haywood County newspaper, the Mountaineer, identified one of the rescued hikers as David Crockett, 23, a UNC Charlotte student. He and a friend were rescued Saturday evening in the Shining Rock wilderness area of Pisgah National Forest, west of Asheville.
The two had started their hike Thursday but used a cell phone Friday to contact authorities and report they were lost. They contacted authorities again Saturday morning and said they had found shelter.
It was Saturday afternoon before an N.C. Air National Guard helicopter, using thermal imaging equipment, spotted the two. The copter ran low on fuel and had to leave, but another Air National Guard helicopter spotted the lost hikers Saturday evening. A crew that included Charlotte Fire Department personnel rescued the two.
Authorities said the hikers were in waist-deep snow, suffering from hypothermia. The Mountaineer, citing Crockett’s friends, said the two were cold but not hurt.
“Pretty much everyone accepts that if they had not been found, they would not have made it through the night, the wind chills being what they were,” Cooper said.
State officials said they made considerable progress clearing major highways Sunday.
“The interstates and primary system is just about clear,” acting Transportation Secretary Mike Holder said Sunday afternoon. “Tomorrow, we will start on our secondary system.”
Holder said the state’s ferry system had suspended service Sunday due to high winds and icy decks. Authorities hope to resume service Monday.
Holder cautioned motorists not to let their guard down Monday.
“As road conditions improve, be careful as you approach bridges and overpasses,” he said.
The S.C. Department of Transportation said it is focusing road-clearing efforts on the state’s northwest corner, especially Greenville, Spartanburg and Cherokee counties. Highways elsewhere in the state were reported to be mostly in good shape Sunday afternoon.
Staff writers Joe Marusak, Jim Morrill, Adam Bell and Steve Harrison contributed.