N.C. governor reminds drivers that winter danger is not over

Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 13, 2018

As the weather warms, North Carolina’s interstates and major highways are returning to normal, but many secondary roads and neighborhood streets are still treacherous.

Gov. Roy Cooper urged people to be remain cautious if venturing out onto the roadways.

“This was our first winter storm of the season, and it lived up to the hype, dumping significant snow and ice on much of our state — with over 2 feet on parts of our mountains,” Cooper said. “While this unforgettable winter storm has finally left North Carolina, reminders of it linger in the form of slippery roads, fallen trees and downed power lines.”

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Some people have been without power for multiple days, especially in hard-hit mountain counties. As of Tuesday, about 37,000 North Carolina households remained in the dark. Utility crews are working to restore power as quickly as possible and have already restored power to more than 500,000 customers statewide. 

Temperatures were forecast to drop below freezing again Tuesday across most of North Carolina, causing more black ice. 

 “We expect that warmer temperatures and our hard-working DOT road crews are going to help, but in the meantime, my message is simple if conditions in your area are still dangerous, don’t take the risk. Sit tight, and wait for sunshine and safety,” Cooper said.

To help clear roads, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has spread more than 38,000 tons of salt — enough to fill up more than 950 tractor-trailers. The department also has deployed almost 2,300 employees and 1,500 trucks and motor-graders in response to the storm.

An additional 900 contract crews are assisting the effort.

Since Saturday, the Highway Patrol has responded to 2,328 collisions and 5,816 calls for service. Early Tuesday morning, a tractor-trailer hit ice and jack-knifed, closing Interstate 40 West near Asheville. The highway has since reopened.

The storm has claimed the lives at least three people in North Carolina, and a fourth death remains under investigation.

A truck driver on Interstate 77 suffered medical problems Monday while trying to free his stuck rig in Yadkin County. He was taken to a hospital in Surry County, where he died.

A man died Sunday in Matthews when a tree fell on his car. In Haywood County, a terminally ill woman living at home on hospice care died when her oxygen concentrator stopped working after a power outage.

“Sadly, we believe this storm has claimed three lives, and we offer condolences to their families,” Cooper said. “We don’t want to lose any more people.”

The State of Emergency for North Carolina remains in effect. The State Emergency Operations Center is open with emergency management, the department of Transportation, the highway patrol, the National Guard and utilities working together to keep North Carolina safe through the storm. 

The National Guard has 169 guard members and 67 vehicles deployed to respond to the storm. They have been assisting in many ways, from pulling out stuck vehicles to helping EMS crews transport people to hospitals. Twenty-five counties remained in a state of emergency Tuesday morning, and 60 school systems are closed for a second day. Eight shelters remain open, housing about 100 residents.

“I’m thankful for the tireless efforts of our guard members, troopers, first responders, line workers and road crews who are helping dig us out from this storm, and for all the heroes who report to work for critical jobs no matter the weather,” Cooper said.

To stay safe during the storm, Cooper and North Carolina Emergency Management officials urge residents to:

• Stay off roads covered with snow and ice.

• If you must drive, slow down and leave plenty of space between your car and other vehicles.

• Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle. Include scraper, jumper cables, tow chain, sand/salt, blankets, flashlight, first aid kit and road map.

• Dress warmly. Wear multiple layers of thin clothing instead of a single layer of thick clothing.

• Properly vent kerosene heaters and keep any electric generators outside and away from open windows or doors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Never burn charcoal or operate grills indoors.

• Monitor changing forecasts and weather conditions closely.

Cooper also encourages North Carolinians to check on neighbors, especially the elderly and disabled, and include pets in their emergency plans. 

For more information on how to prepare for winter storms, residents may visit the Winter Weather Information page at ncdps.gov or use the ReadyNC mobile app. For the latest road conditions, residents may visit DriveNC.gov.

– Submitted article