Two storms, two days apart, left eastern Wake residents snowbound for most of the week.
About two inches of snow fell Tuesday, surprising weather prognosticators with its early start and the tenacity of the storm, which lasted into the late afternoon.
Forecasters were predicting a heavier snow two fall overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning. That storm was expected to dump another three- to six-inches of snow on an area that saw its first winter storm the week before.
The prolonged bouts of winter weather have wreaked havoc on workers, travelers and students alike.
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After missing four days of school the week before, students missed school Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. A decision on classes Friday was not reached before deadlines for this edition.
Locally, public works employees have been putting in extra long hours, clearing streets of snow, while police have been on the lookout for stranded motorists and working with their local public works colleagues to identify trouble spots on the roads.
Tuesday’s storm brought one death in eastern Wake County. Mauricio Anala-Hernandez, 55, of Sanford, died when his car ran off the road on U.S. 64 in front of Kioti Tractor.
According to the N.C. Highway Patrol, Anala-Hernandez’ vehicle ran off the road shortly after 10 a.m., struck an embankment and hit a tree. Highway Patrol officials said the vehicle was traveling too fast for the road conditions.
That wreck was the only serious injury reported from the storm. Wendell Chief of Police Bill Carter said his officers responded to just two wrecks. One of those occurred Wednesday morning as a driver tried unsuccessfully to navigate icy roads.
Carter said his officers also try to limit their movements during storms, but they do remain on patrol. And they communicate with co-workers in the public works department when they find trouble spots.
“(Wendell Public Works Director) Alton (Bryant) and I stay in regular contact with each other during these kinds of events. If we pick up on something that has a higher degree of need, we communicate that to them,” Carter said.
Knightdale police Capt. Tracy Solomon said Knightdale police received no calls for wrecks or stranded motorists.
Getting ready for Round 2
In Zebulon, the days were beginning to run together for weather combat crews by Wednesday afternoon. Public Works Director Chris Ray hoped it was nothing a little coffee couldn’t solve.
They likely needed some kind of extra pick-me-up as they prepared for a second storm that was predicted to hit the area overnight Wednesday, bringing even more snow than the first storm.
After working to prep Zebulon-area roads on Sunday ahead of the first storm, the work resumed at 6 a.m. Wednesday with salt spread at the expected sites of black ice on roadways, at Zebulon municipal facilities and along sidewalks.
By Wednesday afternoon, Zebulon’s crews were back where they had started – applying brine to roadways. Ray expected brining operations to last until about 6 p.m. and that his team would return about midnight to begin plowing, which it typically begins once at least two inches of accumulation covers the road.
Knightdale Public Works Director Fred Boone sounded a similar note. His crews typically wait for snow events to end before they begin clearing roads. He said workers were expected back on the job about 3 a.m. Thursday morning to begin clearing major roads. DOT and area towns are responsible for clearing different roads in each town, but Boone said that often doesn’t matter. “If we have a major route that needs to be cleared, like Smithfield Road near the police station, we will go ahead and clear that road without waiting for DOT. We want our emergency vehicles to be able to get up that hill and out on (Knightdale) Boulevard,” Boone said.
Zebulon police Chief Tim Hayworth reported minor fender benders in town Wednesday following Monday’s snowstorm. He said there had been more significant accidents on the surrounding highways earlier in the week but that none resulted in serious injury.
“We’re also trying to do extra patrols for broken down vehicles, people who are stranded on the side of the road,” Hayworth said. “When you’re stuck in a car at these temperatures, it can get serious. Also, the danger of accidents increases when people are broken down on the side of the road and people come sliding by or are passing by and slowing down looking at the vehicle.”
Hayworth said the best bet is to stay at home when possible during such weather events. He offered several pointers for those who decided to commute, or had to.
“Bridges and overpasses and shaded areas are more prone to ice and black ice and slick spots,” he said. “Drivers should have a greater distance between themselves and other vehicles and realize there is an increased stopping distance, and avoid abrupt maneuvers.”
Staff writer Aaron Moody contributed to this report.