Wake schools will close 4 hours early because of winter storm

Though little snow expected, school systems not taking any chances

jshaffer@newsobserver.comJanuary 24, 2013 

The Triangle has hunkered down for a Friday-afternoon freeze, salting its roads, canceling its trips, closing its schools early and trying not to freak out over a weak-but-slippery storm.

With sleet or freezing rain expected to begin around noon, all public schools in the Triangle will send students home early – most of them by three hours. Wake Tech will shut its doors at noon.

Roads across the Triangle got coated with salt brine Thursday morning as crews hoped to melt freezing rain before the Friday commute. Raleigh crews alone spread the salty solution over 600 of the city’s 1,000 miles of road. Snow-fighters in Cary hit the streets with 3,300 pounds of salt and sand.

Forecasters call for a wet and slippery mess rather than a winter wonderland.

Temperatures should dip below 20 degrees by Friday morning, making it likely that whatever falls from the sky hits frozen ground. A thin layer of ice may also form on tree limbs and power lines. But snow isn’t expected to accumulate more than a half-inch in the Triangle.

Still, fresh in Raleigh’s mind is the “snow-pocalypse of 2005,” when less than an inch of snow dropped on the city and snarled roads so badly that 3,000 students were stranded at school overnight, their buses unable to roll on the ice. Parents and other drivers found themselves stranded in eight-hour gridlock, their cellphones inoperable in the crush of calls.

By letting out early Friday, schools hope to avoid the same scenario with buses and commuter kids sliding over slick roads.

Transportation officials across the state urged caution as the storm moves from west to east. Raleigh advised against driving or making unnecessary cellphone calls. The state Department of Transportation warned that ferry service could be disrupted.

The 2005 storm popularized the brine pre-treatment, allowing salt and water to soak in road surfaces and melt snow and freezing rain on contact.

DOT crews began spraying brine on interstates and major routes, bridges, ramps and heavily traveled primary roads on Wednesday. Once the brining is completed, DOT trucks will be refitted with plows and salt spreaders and will be on standby, according to the department.

Statewide, DOT pressed more than 1,900 trucks equipped with snow plows and graders into service, along with 325 front-end loaders and backhoes and 450 motor graders. It also dipped into its stockpile of 146,500 tons of salt. A typical statewide freeze eats up about a third of that.

As with any Triangle storm, most recently last Thursday’s dusting, the preparations drew sneers from some cold-climate transplants unaccustomed to school closings over threats of bad weather.

But while they might have seen real storms, they haven’t seen full-on Southern panic.

Shaffer: 919-829-4818

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