Wake, Johnston schools closed again Friday

bsiceloff@newsobserver.com khui@newsobserver.comJanuary 30, 2014 

  • School makeup days

    Students throughout the Triangle will now have classes on Feb. 17 – Presidents Day – to make up for snow days caused by the winter storm.

    In Wake County, where schools were closed both Tuesday and Wednesday, traditional-calendar students will now have classes on Feb. 17 and April 21 – Easter Monday.

    Wake’s year-round students will have classes on two Saturdays – Feb. 1 and May 31, and modified-calendar students will have school on Feb. 17 and March 10.

    Wake’s early college and single-sex leadership academy students will make up the days on May 29 and May 30.

    Subject to change by the Johnston County school board, traditional-calendar and year-round students will make up Wednesday on Feb. 17 and early college and middle college students will have classes May 23.

    The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system will make up Wednesday on Feb. 17. The district has already announced that the makeup day for Thursday will be March 28.

    In Durham, traditional-calendar students will go to school Feb. 17. Year-round students will make up Wednesday on Feb. 14. The makeup day hasn’t been set for early college and middle college students.

    In Orange County, Feb. 28 is listed as the next make-up day, but school officials said Wednesday the date is under review. Students already had Feb. 17 scheduled as a regular school day.

  • Tips for staying safe

    On the road:

    • Clear windows and mirrors before getting started.

    • Reduce speed and leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles.

    • Approach bridges and overpasses with caution and do not apply your brakes while on a bridge unless necessary.

    • Anticipate black ice. Watch for thin sheets of ice that may appear as wet pavement. Often ice will appear in the morning, in shady spots or anywhere melted snow refreezes at night.

    • If you begin to slide, take your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not apply the brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car.

    • Come to a complete stop or yield the right of way when approaching an intersection in case any drivers coming from other directions lose control while trying to stop.

    • If you have a cellphone, take it with you. You can contact the Highway Patrol statewide by calling *HP (*47) or call local law enforcement by dialing 911. But don’t call 911 to check on road conditions.

    At home:

    • Be careful when using supplemental heating units. Make sure all combustible materials, such as drapes or chairs, are at least three feet away from any heating unit.

    • Avoid using propane heaters inside or flammable liquids to start fireplaces and do not leave a fireplace unattended. Check smoke detectors to make sure they are working properly.

    • If possible, bring outside pets indoors during cold snaps, especially at night when temperatures dip to their lowest.

    • Check in on neighbors and family members who may be more susceptible to cold weather conditions, such as the elderly or disabled.

    Sources: N.C. Department of Transportation; city of Raleigh

  • Cancellations and delays

    → Wake, Franklin, Granville, Harnett and Johnston county schools are closed Friday.

    → Durham and Orange county schools will open three hours late Friday.

    → Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools will open two hours late Friday.

    → The N.C. Zoo is closed Friday.

    → East Carolina University classes are canceled Friday.

  • School makeup days

    Students throughout the Triangle are starting to lose part of their spring break because of the snow days caused by this week’s winter storm.

    In Wake County, where schools were closed for three days this week, traditional-calendar students will now have classes on Feb. 17, March 28 and April 21.

    The makeup day for Thursday hasn’t been set yet for Wake’s year-round students, but they’ll have classes this Saturday and May 31 for the first two snow days. Modified-calendar students will have school on Feb. 17, March 10 and March 11.

    Wake’s early college and single-sex leadership academy students will make up the days on Feb. 17, May 29 and May 30.

    Subject to change by the Johnston County school board, traditional-calendar students will have class on Feb. 17 and April 14. Year-round students will have school on Feb. 17 and March 14, and early college and middle college students will have classes April 16 and May 23.

    The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system will make up school on Feb. 17 and March 28.

    In Durham, traditional-calendar students will go to school Feb. 17 and March 28. Year-round students will have classes on Feb. 14 and Feb. 17. The makeup days haven’t been set for early college and middle college students.

    In Orange County, the makeup days are listed as Feb. 28 and April 21 for traditional-calendar students, and Feb. 28 and a March intersession day for year-round students. School officials say the dates are under review.

    In Chatham County, the makeup days will be Feb. 14 and March 7.

— A big threat for drivers on tree-shaded country roads Thursday wasn’t the black ice everybody talks about. It was the solid white stuff, hard-packed and slick.

On the second day after a modest winter storm poured 2 to 3 inches of snow across the Triangle, many miles of secondary roads were still coated with snow that had not been melted by the sun or scraped away by the state Department of Transportation.

“A lady stopped on the ice in front of me, coming up this hill,” said Barry Singleton, 48, standing beside his pickup truck in a ditch on Banks Road in southern Wake County on Thursday morning. “I tried to turn around in the driveway here, and when I came back out, I just slid right off the road.”

Ashleigh Nelson, who lives in the neighborhood, stood guard at the top of the hill to warn approaching drivers on Banks Road.

“We’ve got slippery ice on the road, multiple vehicles in the ditch, and there’s no place to turn around once you get down there,” said Nelson, 42. “They need to turn around here while they’ve still got traction.”

Road conditions varied across southern Wake County, as they did in the rest of the Triangle. Long stretches of West Lake, Holly Springs and Ten Ten roads were mostly clear by noon Thursday. But snow and ice still covered sections of other roads, including Penny, Lake Wheeler and Optimist Farm – especially where the pavement was shaded by trees blocking the low winter sun.

That’s one reason Triangle area school officials decided to delay or cancel schools again Friday. Schools in Wake, Franklin, Granville, Harnett and Johnston counties will remain closed. Durham and Orange county schools will delay opening by three hours, and Chapel Hill-Carrboro will open two hours late.

It’s the fourth straight day without classes in Wake County, where officials felt compelled to explain their decision on the district’s Facebook page Thursday evening.

“This decision comes after extensive staff evaluation of secondary and neighborhood road conditions, especially in outlying areas; school parking lots, school access roads and carpool lanes,” the statement read.

Wake first called off school Monday night, in advance of the storm. It had been expected to arrive around noon Tuesday, but snow did not reach the Triangle until around sundown, after the school day was over.

Prefer to ‘keep it safe’

Wake County school board Vice Chairman Tom Benton said he told Superintendent Jim Merrill he made the right decision Monday night based on the information he had at the time. He said school board members have received few complaints about school being closed this week.

“When parents saw what happened in Atlanta, they thought it could have happened here,” Benton said.

The storm caught school officials in Atlanta by surprise this week, and thousands of school children there were forced to sleep in schools Tuesday night.

Benton was a middle school principal in Raleigh during the 2005 ice fiasco. A Jan. 19 storm created traffic gridlock on icy roads, and nearly 3,000 Wake students spent the night in school because their buses couldn’t get them home. Benton stayed at Durant Road Middle School in North Raleigh that night with 200 students who slept in their classrooms.

Amy Boggs, a Wake Forest parent of a high school student, also remembers what it was like in 2005 when it took her more than three hours just to get to her daughter’s school to pick her up. Boggs said she supported closing schools Tuesday and backs keeping them closed Friday.

“I would prefer to keep it safe,” she said. “I know Wake County is very large. Some streets are in better shape than others.”

DOT crews were able to get almost all interstate and other major highways clear and dry with an all-out effort Wednesday, but there are simply too many miles of secondary roads to clear them all quickly.

Crews also faced a chemistry problem, because salt spread on ice works less as the temperature drops and not at all when conditions are as cold as they were Thursday morning. The overnight low of 7 degrees tied the record for Jan. 29 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Warming up

But by midday Thursday, the temperature rose above the freezing mark for the first time since Monday. DOT officials said they expected to have all secondary roads clear by Friday afternoon, when temperatures are expected to reach the upper 40s.

“With the help of warmer temperatures and sunshine, we hope to make significant strides today in our effort to return roads to pre-storm conditions,” Transportation Secretary Tony Tata told reporters Thursday afternoon.

Still, drivers will continue to find slippery spots Friday. Temperatures were expected to fall below 20 degrees Thursday night, so there will be places where snow that melted on the road will freeze again overnight – creating those slick, shiny patches on the asphalt known as black ice.

Gov. Pat McCrory asked drivers to be careful.

“It doesn’t matter how experienced you are as a driver,” McCrory told reporters Thursday. “No one can safely drive on black ice.”

Any lingering snow and ice will likely disappear this weekend, when temperatures are expected to reach the mid-50s on Saturday and top 60 on Sunday.

Reporter Katie Reilly and photographer Chris Seward contributed to this report.

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or newsobserver.com/roadworrierblog Twitter: @Road_Worrier

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