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Messy commute could be in store for Charlotte area

The Charlotte region may be in for a messy commute Wednesday morning, with freezing rain overnight expected to leave a light layer of ice on roads, bridges and sidewalks.

The threat of freezing rain prompted the Charlotte Department of Transportation to send 12 trucks out to treat bridges and culverts with salt and/or salt brine Tuesday night. Numerous schools in the region announced two-hour delays to Wednesday’s start of school.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools planned to get weather updates at midnight and 4 a.m. before deciding on school schedules, but high school exams will go on regardless of delays, Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark said.

Charlotte road officials warned that black ice on streets and sidewalks could form quickly overnight. Officials urged motorists and pedestrians to be extra cautious, drive and walk slower, and allow room for heavy equipment treating roads.

Charlotte residents are asked to report icy road conditions by calling CharMeck 311.

Even a slight accumulation of 0.01 to 0.05 inch of ice could be a problem for commuters, National Weather Service meteorologist Neil Dixon said.

“It only takes a trace amount to produce slippery conditions,” he said.

Freezing rain was expected as temperatures were forecast to drop from 38 degrees at 7 p.m. Tuesday to 32 degrees by midnight, Dixon said.

Once the sun rises at 7:32 a.m., the ice will melt, he said, and Wednesday’s high will reach 41 degrees.

The weather service said its freezing rain advisory will remain in effect until 10 a.m. in the Charlotte metro area and surrounding counties, including parts of eastern upstate South Carolina and the western North Carolina Piedmont.

Because the winter storm was moving north to south, conditions were expected to be worse elsewhere in the state.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for the coast for early Wednesday through midday. Freezing rain was expected to leave up to a quarter-inch of ice along northern coastal areas, with lesser amounts farther south.

Forecasters also called for freezing rain and sleet for most of the rest of central North Carolina. Accumulations were expected to be worse in the Raleigh area.

The N.C. Department of Transportation had maintenance crews on standby to deal with frozen precipitation, and state public safety officials urged residents and visitors to monitor local weather conditions and use caution when driving.

“Our main concern with this storm is difficult travel conditions overnight and Wednesday morning,” Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry said. “Don’t take any unnecessary risks.”

Check state road conditions at www.ncdot.org or call 511.

Staff writer Andrew Dunn and The Associated Press contributed.

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