RALEIGH — Snow in the area tapered off Sunday afternoon, and driving conditions along Interstates and main roads improved, but conditions are expected to deteriorate again tonight and through tomorrow morning as temperatures fall and black ice develops.
Commuters returning to work during the next few days need to be especially cautious, said state Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell. If you must be on the roads early in the morning, be sure to check the traffic forecast and driving conditions before heading out.
The winter storm warning will expire later tonight, but emergency management officials are keeping a careful watch as wind speeds increase across much of the state, especially in the mountains. Winds between 20 and 35 miles per hour are expected across most of the state tomorrow, with the mountains experiencing 45 mile per hour winds with gusts up to 60. The increasing winds could lead to more widespread power outages.
The western part of the state has received between three and 15 inches of snow, while the central portion got between five and 12 inches. Eastern North Carolina snowfall amounts range from a trace along the coast to as much as 10 inches inland.
The State Highway Patrol has responded to more than 1,980 calls across the state, or about four times their normal call volume, between midnight and 7 p.m,. Two weather-related fatalities have been reported; one each in Mecklenburg and Onslow counties.
Transportation crews have worked throughout the weekend pushing snow and treating the roads with salt and/or a brine solution. All interstates have been cleared, as well as many of the major U.S. Routes. Crews will begin treating bridges and icy spots in the morning and also will focus on clearing secondary roads.
At Raleigh-Durham International Airport earlier today at least a couple hundred flights were delayed or canceled, but some flights were still operating so travelers should contact their airlines, an RDU spokesman said today.
"The runways are clear," said RDU's Andrew Sawyer. "Flights can take off and land."
Many of delayed or canceled flights were headed north, where a massive snowstorm is expected to dump as much as 20 inches today, Sawyer said.
In the Triangle, up to about 8 inches fell before tapering off around noon Sunday.
Meanwhile, 34 N.C. National Guard soldiers have been called to active duty to assist in winter storm operations.
Raleigh had 6.5 inches by 10 a.m. In Apex, 8 inches had fallen, and in Harnett County, 10 inches had hit, said Brandon Dunstan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Raleigh office.
And it will stick. So stay home.
"It's definitely dangerous road conditions," Dunstan said. "We're going to have temperatures hovering around freezing all day."
The Highway Patrol received more than 260 reports of accidents in the Triangle area since midnight, said patrol spokeswoman Julia Jarema.
One "weather-related" fatality was reported in Mecklenburg County this morning, she said.
"We need people to stay home," she said. "The roads are not in good condition, and we've not seen the worst of the weather yet."
The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles is advising motorists to be aware of slippery road conditions, limited visibility, and use caution while driving.
Yet some hearty souls are braving the elements today, hitting the largely empty malls like the Streets of Southpoint in Durham. "The crazy thing about is that there are some people in here shopping," said Tammy Hodge, store manager at Abercrombie & Fitch. "We don't even know where people can park. The lot is full of snow. It's a big mess."
The National Weather Service expects temperatures in the Raleigh area to rise to the mid-thirties today. Wind gusts might also reach 20 miles per hour.
Those gusts already caused about 1,800 power outages early this morning in Chatham, Durham, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Nash, Wake and Wilson counties, said Progress Energy spokeswoman Christy Plaga.
"We've seen about 16,000 outages across the state," Plaga said.
On its website, Duke Energy is also reporting about 31,000 outages in NC. 10,000 of those are near Charlotte and Winston-Salem.
In Raleigh, RDU International Airport spokesman Andrew Sawyer said many flights have been canceled or delayed, but some are still on schedule. Travelers should check their flight status at www.rdu.com or call their airline for an update before driving to the airport, he said.
In Wake County, several government offices are closed today including the animal care, control and adoption center, all solid waste convenience centers, and the Lake Crabtree and Blue Jay Point county parks.
In Chapel Hill, there's no bus service today, and motorists are urged to stay home. Nine snow plows have been deployed to clear the town's streets, officials said.
National Guard soldiers were sent Saturday night to armories in Butner, Rocky Mount, Elizabeth City, Winterville and Mount Olive to prepare to provide transportation, recovery or other missions. Each location will have two HUMVEES and four guardsmen available.