Coastal storm threatens to bring several inches of snow to Triangle, Eastern NC

akenney@newsobserver.comJanuary 27, 2014 

— A coastal weather system will meet Arctic air over Eastern North Carolina on Tuesday, producing the first substantial snowfall in the Triangle this winter.

Forecasters expect between 3 and 8 inches of snow, with heavier amounts in the southern and eastern part of the state, starting Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning.

“At dawn – not much happening,” said Chris Hohmann, chief meteorologist for WTVD. But by mid- or late morning, an area of snow should expand into the Triangle, he said.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Triangle, including Wake, Johnston, Durham, Chatham and Franklin counties as of Monday night. Orange County sat just outside the early-warning area but was under a winter storm advisory.

The storm’s expected arrival Tuesday prompted schools in Johnston and Chatham counties to close early. Chatham schools will dismiss students at 10 a.m., while middle and high schools in Johnston County will dismiss at 10:30 a.m. followed by elementary schools at 11:15 a.m. Wake County Public Schools will be closed.

Other districts in the Triangle were still considering their options Monday evening.

East Carolina University announced that it would cancel classes beginning at or after 2 p.m. Tuesday. The N.C. Zoo will be closed all day Tuesday, the third time weather has forced it to close this month.

People did not take the storm warnings lightly. By 7 p.m., the Edwards’ IGA grocery store in Smithfield was running low on all its supplies, having seen hundreds of customers.

‘The S word’

It was a rush the store hadn’t seen since, well, since last week’s cold weather, manager Steve Edwards said. The store sold out of bread twice on Monday – more than 200 loaves in all – as well as milk and eggs.

“All they’ve got to do is mention the ‘S word,’ and folks come running to the grocery store,” he said. “They probably haven’t ate everything they got last week today, but I don’t mind.”

Forecasters say snow will come from cold air pushing into the state again from the northwest colliding with moist air working its way up the coast from the south.

“The heaviest snow will fall tomorrow evening and tomorrow night, and then be out of here by dawn on Wednesday,” Hohmann said Tuesday. The worst of the storm was expected to coincide with colder temperatures, meaning fluffier, stickier snow, he said.

Temperatures were expected to drop from the 50s on Monday into the 20s overnight and to stay below freezing Tuesday and Wednesday.

DOT prepares roads

Throughout the state, N.C. Department of Transportation crews were spreading brine on main routes Monday, while towns and cities scrambled to prepare secondary roads.

In Wake County, the DOT expected 40 employees operating 17 trucks on Monday to lay at least 66,500 gallons of brine, a mix of salt and water.

The eastern part of the state was bracing for a particularly hard hit. Places such as Lenoir County haven’t seen a snowstorm as big as this one in decades, said Luvoise Hill, 64, who lives on a hog farm.

“Just waiting and hoping the fire doesn’t get out,” Hill said Monday. “My husband’s going to have to find some wood for the stove,” she said, in case the generator gives out.

They were preparing the farm’s 200 hogs, meanwhile, by stocking up on supplies and gas. Even on Monday morning, she said, the local stores were running low on jugs of water, though milk and bread were plentiful.

Climate records indicate the city of Kinston, the Lenoir County seat, hasn’t seen a month with significant snowfall since 1998, and the 1980s before that.

Edwards, the grocery store manager, was preparing for another busy day. He’d placed a triple order of bread for Tuesday morning.

“If they don’t come get the bread,” he said, “I’ll be making sandwiches for a while.”

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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