NC agencies say they’ll spend what they have to on storm cleanup

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comFebruary 12, 2014 

  • 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 3 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.

    • Do not attempt to deal with downed limbs or trees on a street or sidewalk on your own since they may be tangled in live power lines.

    • Report downed wires to your utility company.

    • To prepare for a power outage, have plenty of fresh batteries for flashlights and radios.

    • If you have a gasoline-powered electric generator, use it in well-ventilated areas and only plug in individual appliances. Never connect a generator to a wall outlet. Be sure to have adequate fuel for your generator, and manage consumption by running it for only a few hours at a time.

    Sources: N.C. Department of Transportation; city of Raleigh; town of Cary; Duke Energy

  • Tips to prevent hypothermia

    • Wear several layers of loose clothing to trap warm air between them.

    • Outside, wear a hat, scarf, gloves or mittens, and warm clothes.

    • At home, wear long underwear, along with socks and slippers. A blanket or afghan will keep legs and shoulders warm.

    • Set thermostat to at least 68 to 70 degrees. Homes with temperatures from 60 to 65 degrees can trigger hypothermia in older people.

    • Check with medical professionals to see whether any prescribed or over-the-counter medications may increase risks of hypothermia.

    Source: National Institute on Aging

    Tips for staying safe

    • Be careful when using supplemental heating units. Make sure all combustible materials, such as drapes or chairs, are at least 3 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.

    • Do not attempt to deal with downed limbs or trees on a street or sidewalk on your own since they may be tangled in live power lines.

    • Report downed wires to your utility company.

    • To prepare for a power outage, have plenty of fresh batteries for flashlights and radios.

    • If you have a gasoline-powered electric generator, use it in well-ventilated areas, and only plug in individual appliances. Never connect a generator to a wall outlet. Be sure to have adequate fuel for your generator, and manage consumption by running it for only a few hours at a time.

    Sources: N.C. Department of Transportation; city of Raleigh; town of Cary; Duke Energy

  • 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.

— State and local agencies are burning through the money budgeted for winter storm cleanup, but officials say they’ll spend what they need to now.

“We’re not thinking about the budget at this point in time,” Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday. “We’ll spend whatever is necessary to get the job done and to protect the life and safety of our citizens.”

State and local governments may be eligible for federal money later to cover some of their storm-related expenses, McCrory said.

“We’ll worry about that after the storm is over …,” McCrory said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll have enough reserves to deal with the situation.”

By late Tuesday, the state Department of Transportation had spent $36 million of its $40 million storm budget – for salt and brine to prepare roads in advance, and for sand and more salt and heavy machinery to get snow and ice off the roads after the storms had passed.

“NCDOT will continue any operations necessary to keep the roads safe and clear ice and snow as quickly as possible,” Mike Charbonneau, a DOT deputy secretary, said by email. “If that requires going beyond the budgeted and reserve amounts, it would mean using additional dollars from the overall maintenance budget.”

Triangle city officials have been scrambling to replenish their storm supplies.

Chris McGee of Raleigh’s public works department says he sent city trucks to Wilmington on Tuesday to load up on salt. Two weeks ago, he’d ordered 2,000 tons of salt to replace what was used in the last snowstorm, but so far the overwhelmed delivery company has brought only about 300 tons.

“We’ve had a lot of trouble getting additional salt,” McGee said.

But he added that he has plenty to get Raleigh through this week’s forecast snow and ice – 1,000 or so tons ready to go. So far this year, the city has used about 2,900 tons of salt at a cost of $478,000.

“My budget can easily handle 7,000 tons of salt,” McGee said.

In milder winters, the salt barns have gone largely untouched, allowing McGee to fund minor street paving projects when spring arrives. That likely won’t happen this year. “It doesn’t look like we’re going to be turning in any money at the end of the year,” McGee said.

Cary budgets $100,000 a year for snow removal, not including employee overtime – and town workers logged 1,250 hours of overtime during a storm in January. The town spent $35,000 to replenish its salt and sand supplies after that storm, and an additional $8,000 to replace snowplow blades.

The budget is holding up, said Scott Hecht, Cary’s public works director. If at any point the town exceeds the snow-removal budget, he said, it just moves around money from other parts of the budget.

“We just work it (in) and deal with it,” Hecht said. “We’ve never not had enough. (Town) council has already approved if we needed more.”

A Durham spokeswoman said the city had 1,500 tons of salt on hand and enough money in the budget for 1,000 tons more. If necessary, she said, the city will reduce operating costs in other areas to cover extra snow expenses.

Smithfield is staying within its $5,000 budget for salt, said Tim Kerigan, a town spokesman. Workers who put in extra hours for storm work will take comp time later, he said.

Chapel Hill spreads its storm budget thin by making its own mix of brine to spread on streets before the snow falls, Public Works Director Lance Norris said. This week, the town shared some of its brine with Hillsborough.

“We have an ample supply for this event,” Norris said. “And enough if we have to help our neighbors.”

After the storm passes, DOT managers and town officials will be scrambling to replenish their salt supplies.

“Everyone and their mother is going to be needing salt,” Hecht said.

Reporters Colin Campbell, Paula Seligson, Jim Wise, Tammy Grubb and Sarah Nagem contributed.

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

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