A winter storm followed by near record-low temperatures led to closures and delays throughout Johnston County this past week. But the storm largely spared tree limbs and power lines.
Johnston residents reported few power outages after a wintry mix late Monday and early Tuesday covered the county in ice. Traffic mishaps attributed to the ice were relatively few and scattered.
Seth Heilig of Johnston County 9-1-1 said several vehicles slid off of slick roads into ditches. In addition, two tractor-trailer rigs jackknifed because of the ice, one on Interstate 95 near Exit 106 and the other on U.S. 70 near Pine Level.
“There was nothing really serious,” Heilig said.
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In Clayton, police reported no ice-related wrecks early Tuesday morning. However, officers did close portions of Amelia Church Road and North O’Neil Street overnight after they became dangerous to drive on.
To prepare for the winter weather, Town of Clayton crews spread more than 4,000 gallons of salt brine on streets and equipped all available trucks with snow plows, said town spokeswoman Stacy Beard.
The town launched its emergency operations center Monday evening at the Clayton Fire Department and put extra police officers on duty.
Before the mix of sleet, snow and freezing rain started falling, many residents hurried to grocery and hardware stores to grab bread and milk, shovel and sled. Hudson’s Hardware on Amelia Church Road in Clayton had the largest supply of Ice Melt around town after the store overstocked while preparing for an earlier winter storm earlier this year. Store employees said they sold more than 650 bags of Ice Melt on Monday.
Johnston County Emergency Services opened storm shelters at Clayton and Smithfield-Selma high schools on Monday. One family of six stayed at the Clayton shelter overnight Monday because their home’s heating system wasn’t working, said Kim Robertson, director of Emergency Services. A homeless man stayed at the Smithfield shelter, she said.
“As for the family with the children, we are trying to work out a situation for them to get their heat fixed,” Robertson said.
On Wednesday, because of the forecast for frigid temperatures, First Baptist Church in Smithfield opened its Ministry Center as a warming shelter for people without heat or shelter.
Johnston County schools closed for students and teachers on Tuesday and for students on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which were optional workdays for teachers. School calendars show that traditional-calendar students will make up two of the days on April 9-10, year-round students on March 20 and April 10 and Early and Middle College students on April 2 and May 22. However, the Johnston County Board of Education ultimately decides when to schedule make-up days.
“As soon as that decision is made, we will be sending that information out,” said schools spokeswoman Tracey Peedin Jones.
On Tuesday, students Zach Parrish, 14, Lyndsy Parrish, 10, and Payton Cooper, 7, were enjoying one of their two days out of school, using body boards to sled down a driveway on Booker Dairy Road in Smithfield.
Julie Cooper, who was chaperoning the kids outside her home, said typically it’s hard for her to get off work for snow days. However, her employer, BB&T, gave her and her colleagues the day off, she said.
“I’m out today and don’t have to take vacation time, so that’s great,” Cooper said. “Tomorrow could be a different story.”
The ice kept many residents at home on Tuesday, but some people ventured out to work, to shovel their driveways or to play.
On Main Street in Clayton, Billy Ferrell worked to shovel the ice from the sidewalk in front of the Clayton Mart. Another Clayton neighbor, Jenny Gorman, walked by holding ski poles.
A few blocks over, Duncan Harmon was with his two sons, Preston, 10, and Tanner, 7, sledding down a slick parking lot at the Compare Foods shopping center on Second Street.
The Harmons, who live just down the street, found a piece of old tin in their barn and used it to careen down the hill, hollering joyfully all the way.
“We’re the smart ones, aren’t we?” the father Harmon said to his kids. “Nobody can stop us.”