It will not rise above freezing in the Charlotte area until about 1 p.m. Thursday, promising the ice on roads will linger during the morning commute.
Driving will be “extremely hazardous,” Gov. Roy Cooper warned in a Wednesday news conference. “We urge people to stay off the roads if at all possible.”
Among the challenges for Charlotte drivers: The inbound ramp from Independence Boulevard onto the John Belk/Interstate 277 interchange was blocked Thursday morning due to ice. It reopened around 8 a.m.
A winter weather advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. Thursday for the Charlotte region and all of Western North Carolina, as black ice will create slippery roads, the National Weather Service said. Some roads that appear clear might be covered by a thin layer of ice.
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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and all other school systems in the region said classes will be canceled for a second straight day on Thursday as ice is expected to make travel hazardous. Morning temperatures are forecast to plummet to 15 degrees.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police responded to 265 wrecks Wednesday, including 33 with injuries. The department normally averages 170 incidents over 24 hours, CMPD Lt. Andrew Harris said.
As of 8 a.m. Thursday, the department reported 25 more wrecks.
Charlotte’s airport reported more than 150 planes being de-iced by about 5 p.m. Wednesday but that the airport remained open. Airlines were reporting cancellations, however, and passengers were urged to check on their flights before leaving home.
About 17,800 Duke Energy customers in North Carolina were still without power at 10 p.m. Wednesday, down from 26,000 at 6 p.m., although most power had been restored in the Charlotte area. Concern about power outages remained overnight amid the deep freeze.
For drivers on Charlotte area roads, the worst was yet to come. Conditions Wednesday night and early Thursday were expected to be “treacherous,” the governor said.
Hourly forecasts for the Charlotte region showed temperatures dropping from 31 degrees before 5 p.m. Wednesday to around 20 degrees by midnight.
Road conditions deteriorated at sunset Wednesday – 5:37 p.m. – as the snow refroze and wet slippery became icy slippery.
Ice buildup on windshield wipers, antennas or other parts of a car is a sign that ice is already forming on roads, according to the web site IcyRoadSafety.com. If you’re in the car and not sure about the roads, look to see if there’s ice on parked cars, highway signs, guardrails or grassy surfaces.
Cooper earlier declared a state of emergency for the state.
The storm moved much slower across the state than anticipated, Cooper said. That meant 3 to 6 inches of snow falling in many areas and up to 8 inches in isolated spots. .
Among the highest snowfall amounts in the immediate Charlotte area, as reported to the National Weather Service: 7 inches southwest of China Grove in Rowan County, 6 inches in Mooresville and Lincolnton, 5 inches in Cornelius, 4.5 inches in Cabarrus County and 4 inches in Gaston County.
Charlotte saw 3 to 3.5 inches, according to NWS spotter reports.
Thursday’s high is expected to reach 42, while temperatures will finally warm to the mid-50s on Friday and even higher, into the 60s, over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
Meanwhile, the N.C. Department of Transportation is asking the public to call call 1-877-468-3968 to report black ice. For emergencies, dial 911.
Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak