Thousands remain without power after winter storm that dumped record rainfall

mquillin@newsobserver.comMarch 8, 2014 

— Blue skies and warm temperatures suggested spring, but thousands of state residents still were dealing with the miseries of winter on Saturday as power outages remained and early-morning roads were slick with ice.

A winter storm that arrived Thursday night and continued to pummel the region nearly all day Friday brought record rainfall, according to the National Weather Service: 1.71 inches, exceeding the record of 1.63 inches set in 1941. Throughout the day Friday, residents in areas affected by the storm were under an unusual mix of advisories, told to look out for frozen precipitation, flooding and high winds.

The combination was the most destructive in Orange, Alamance and Guilford counties, where huge trees were toppled and power outages widespread.

Duke Energy had about 150,000 customers without power in the area between Raleigh and Winston-Salem late Saturday afternoon. Some were told their electricity might not be restored until late Wednesday or early Thursday. At the height of the outages on Friday, state officials said 436,000 customers were without power.

The rain finally stopped Friday night, but water froze on roads as temperatures dropped.

The N.C. Highway Patrol reported 177 accidents from midnight Friday to noon Saturday in the 12-county district that includes Wake, Durham, Granville and Warren, where the most crashes occurred. No fatalities had been reported by midday.

A patrol spokesman said most of the accidents involved cars sliding off the road or into one another.

In an incident in Chapel Hill about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, five people were standing outside attending to a collision in the area of Fordham Boulevard and Scarlett Drive when another car ran into them. The driver then ran or was picked up by a passer-by, police said. Several of those who had been struck were taken to hospitals with injuries that were not life-threatening, Chapel Hill police said in a news release.

Downed trees and power lines continued to block passenger train service. The Carolinian and the Piedmont were not running Saturday between Durham and Greensboro, the state Department of Transportation said in a news release, and 20 grade crossings were not working because of power outages. Service was not expected to resume until late Saturday.

Makeup day canceled

Wake County Schools cited dangerous road conditions when it canceled what had been planned as a makeup day on Saturday for time lost to previous winter weather. An SAT set to be administered Saturday morning at Broughton High School in Raleigh also was canceled.

No rescheduling decision has been announced.

Sunny at Pullen Park

The sudden change of weather Saturday brought a different kind of traffic problem to Raleigh’s Pullen Park, where cars crowded the overflow parking lot as people came to attend a swim meet, take their children for a train ride or their puppy for a walk.

“That’s Brennan,” said Alexis Scrivani of Cary, who was hoping to take her 2-month-old black Lab-pit bull mix to play. But she was having trouble finding a place to park and was thinking of heading to Cary’s Bond Park instead. “There’s too many people here,” she said.

In Pullen Park, wool socks and rain gear had been ditched for short sleeves and sneakers.

At one end of the parking lot, a group of people had given up trying to push a car out of the mud – a leftover from Friday’s rain. A tow truck crawled through traffic on its way to the rescue.

Bishop Parker patrols the lot for the State Capitol Police. Since he started four months ago, he said, this was biggest crowd he had seen at Pullen.

“I’m enjoying it,” he said, peeling back the wind guard on his golf cart to let in the warm air. “It’s a nice day.”

Quillin: 919-829-8989

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