The weather produced few major headlines in 2014, but one of the year’s biggest meteorological events could affect city leaders’ actions for years to come.
Snow began falling on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 12, and when the snow picked up in intensity around midday, thousands of people who work at uptown Charlotte businesses headed for home. One result was a period of gridlock on outbound East Independence Boulevard, caused by vehicles unable to negotiate the snowy and icy road surface not far from uptown.
“That happened in an area where we didn’t have access,” said Saleem Khattak, Charlotte’s city streets superintendent. “We learned from what happened.”
The traffic snarl was part of a wintry event in which snow fell four straight days in Charlotte – a rarity. When it was done, more than 8 inches fell in the storm, giving the city about 3 inches more than usual for a winter season.
Otherwise, the Charlotte region’s weather in 2014 was rather quiet. January was cold, with two mornings of single-digit low temperatures. A major flooding event hit eastern Mecklenburg County in mid-July, and North Carolina recorded its earliest land-falling hurricane in history. But summer failed to produce a 100-degree day, there were no lengthy periods of drought, and precipitation was a few inches above average.
Weather’s biggest impact on the region came with the February storm.
Khattak said city and state transportation officials learned from the Independence Boulevard mess to be more proactive in keeping the streets clear when snow is falling.
“We would like to be able to have a few hours to get the roads in good shape before we put all the traffic on there,” Khattak said. Authorities said they will work with employers to let workers leave for home before the snow starts – and to have delayed openings on mornings when roads are icy or snow-covered.
“We’re already doing a good job of communicating with government offices and the schools,” Khattak said. “Now we’ll work closer with the business community.”