Black ice threatens as storm leaves Triangle and power outages continue

From staff reportsMarch 7, 2014 

— A long storm had largely cleared the area by Friday night, but the power was still off for hundreds of thousands of households in North Carolina, and forecasters warned that black ice was setting in on roads in the western part of the Triangle.

Heavy rain, gusty winds and ice on Friday combined to shut down traffic and threaten low-lying areas with flooding in Chapel Hill, Durham, Chatham County and points west.

The ice and winds overnight brought down numerous trees, including 40 to 50 pines that blocked Bivens Road in Durham County near the Orange County line, the state Department of Public Safety reported. Gov. Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency.

The state said 463,000 utility customers were without power at 3:30 p.m., near the apparent peak of the outages. The bulk of the outages were in Orange, Alamance and Guilford counties, the state said, putting a heavy load on Duke Energy repair crews.

Duke’s outage map showed 371,000 customers cut off late Friday afternoon, with the highest numbers in Orange, Alamance, Guilford, Randolph, Davidson and Forsyth counties.

The outages were shrinking by Friday night, with Duke Energy down to 300,000 customers affected at about 10 p.m., from a high of almost 400,000 affected.

A night and day of nearly unrelenting rain swelled streams and rivers. The Haw River was experiencing “minor” flooding at Bynum, according to the National Weather Service, and a flood warning was up for the Neuse River at Clayton and Smithfield. A weather service statement said up to 2 inches of rain had fallen in parts of central North Carolina.

The heavy rain led Pittsboro to bypass part of its sewage treatment process, releasing mostly treated wastewater into Robeson Creek, said city utilities director John Poteat. Overflows also were reported in municipalities across the state. State officials urged residents to limit their contact with rivers, creeks and surface waters.

Trouble with trees

Orange County reported early in the afternoon that it had 10 forestry crews and local firefighters out trying to clear trees from roads, though 30 mph gusts of wind proved troublesome.

Trees that fell on railroad tracks knocked out passenger service between Raleigh and Charlotte, the state Department of Transportation said. The Carolinian train that left Charlotte at 7 a.m. bound for Raleigh was stopped, stuck for several hours behind Amtrak’s Crescent train because trees had fallen across tracks in High Point, the DOT said.

Forecasters expected the rain to stop in the Triangle on Friday evening but say that falling temperatures overnight could cause streets to ice, particularly west of Wake County.

The weekend will be a stunning contrast, however, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s.

 

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