The winter storm that forecasters have been predicting all week will begin with a mix of sleet and snow late Friday afternoon and could leave as much as a foot in some parts of Eastern North Carolina before it’s all over Saturday.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Triangle for Friday evening through Saturday. The heaviest precipitation will begin between 5 and 7 p.m. Friday, the weather service said, and will continue until late Saturday afternoon. Frigid Arctic air will follow, driving temperatures into the single digits on Monday morning.
Six to 8 inches of snow are possible from the Triangle to much of Eastern North Carolina, with as much as 12 inches in places. Areas south of the Triangle could see less as warmer temperatures delay the change from rain to snow Friday night.
The storm forced the cancellation of the ceremonies and celebrations for Gov. Roy Cooper’s inauguration.
High temperatures will hover around freezing Saturday and Sunday and dip into the teens by Sunday morning. So even after the snow stops falling Saturday, roads will remain snow-covered and icy, as anything that melts during the day refreezes overnight. Sunday night could see lows in the single digits.
The Triangle likely won’t see a warmup until about mid-week, as temperatures reach the 40s on Tuesday and possibly the 50s on Wednesday.
Triangle residents began preparing for the wintry weather Wednesday. On Thursday, hundreds dropped by Burke Brothers hardware store on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh searching for ice melt, propane, heaters, snow shovels and sleds. By 4 p.m., the 80-year-old store had sold about 400 orange, blue and green sleds, 200 snow shovels and more than 900 bags of ice melt, said co-owner Jeff Hastings.
Because Raleigh has become a city of transplants, Hastings said, a lot of customers asked what they should expect from winter weather in North Carolina.
“Some of them are from down south where they don’t get anything like this,” he said. “So they want to know what they could be up against and what they should do.”
Patrice Williams, 37, a nurse at Duke Medical Center, bought a bright lime-green sled for her six-year-old daughter, Leah.
“She’s never been sledding before so we’re looking forward to it,” said Williams, who decided to pick up a snow shovel too, just in case.
“You just never know,” she said. “I can always use it next time.”
The storm will hit on what would have been inauguration weekend for Gov. Roy Cooper. The committee planning the inauguration had already canceled the parade and moved other ceremonies indoors on Saturday, but late Thursday decided to postpone all Friday night and Saturday events.
Friday’s planned Prayer Service will take place as scheduled, and the oaths of office for the Council of State officers will be moved to the Executive Mansion on Friday,
Southwest and Delta airlines are allowing travelers with flights to or out of Charlotte, RDU, Greensboro, New Bern, Asheville and other southeastern cities outside North Carolina to reschedule or refund their Friday and Saturday flights without paying fees.
For updates from the Raleigh-Durham airport, go to www.rdu.com/weather.
The state Department of Transportation began preparing for the storm Wednesday, spraying brine on highways throughout the Triangle. The forecast for all snow works to the benefit of road crews because there is not likely to be rain to wash the brine off the pavement before freezing precipitation falls, said DOT spokesman Steve Abbott.
In the Triangle, Abbott said, supervisors plan to have road crews rest at home Friday and report to their garages shortly before the snow arrives and then begin long shifts plowing.
Abbott urged drivers to slow down once the snow begins, saying that driving too fast for conditions was to blame for many accidents when ice hit a few weeks ago.
Cars left on North Carolina roadways when winter weather hits will be towed, Abbott said. Signs alerting drivers to the possibility of towing were visible on local roads Thursday.
“We don’t allow cars to be left on the shoulder for safety reasons,” Abbott said.
Durham city crews were busy Thursday brining streets and bridges that are the city’s responsibility. The town has 2,000 tons of salt and sand mix and more than 2,500 tons of salt along with two motor graders and 24 trucks outfitted with plows and spreaders for clearing streets. Crews plan to operate on 12-hour shifts until all primary and secondary roads, bridges and emergency routes are cleared.
Raleigh and Cary crews were doing the same. Raleigh has 10,000 gallons of brine and the capacity for another 120,000 gallons along with 4,000 tons of salt and 40 trucks ready to go. Raleigh planned to start brining Thursday night and continue as needed. Cary has 900 tons of salt and 2,500 tons of salt/sand mix plus 76 pieces of winter-weather equipment to clear streets.
Because forecasters are expecting several inches of snow, with very little ice, Duke Energy doesn’t expect many of its customers to lose power, said spokesman Jeff Brooks.
“At that level of accumulation, we are not anticipating significant power outages,” Brooks said. But that can change quickly as the forecast evolves, especially if warmer conditions lead to rain that could freeze on trees and power lines.
People should have a plan in case the power does go out, Brooks said, especially if they rely on electricity for medical needs.
Wake and Durham county schools canceled all after-school activities and athletic events scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Three Kings’ Day Parade in Cary has been rescheduled to 1 p.m. Jan. 28.
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro announced it would be closed Saturday and Sunday.
The Mike Craver concert scheduled for Friday and its accompanying screening of “All About Eve” at the N.C. Museum of Art have been canceled and rescheduled for April 14. For more information, go to ncartmuseum.org or call 919-715-5923.
The Cinch World’s Toughest Rodeo scheduled for Saturday has been postponed until March 4. Tickets for the original date will be honored for the rescheduled date. Fans unable to attend the rescheduled date can receive a refund beginning Monday.
Colin Campbell contributed to this report.
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett
Tips for ice and snow
▪ If the power goes out, contact Duke Energy Progress at 800-769-3766 or Wake Electric Membership Corp. at 800-474-6300 or 919-863-6300.
▪ 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.
▪ Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors.
▪ Let water taps drip so they don’t freeze. Learn how to use your home’s master water shut-off valve in the event of broken pipes.
▪ Bring pets indoors at night when temperatures dip to their lowest.
▪ Check on relatives and neighbors to make sure they’re warm enough.
On the road
▪ Keep more than usual distance between cars, and do not use cruise control. Remember that bridges and overpasses freeze first.
▪ Do not apply your brakes while on a bridge unless necessary.
▪ Anticipate black ice. Watch for thin sheets of ice that may appear to be wet pavement. Often ice will appear in the morning, in shady spots or anywhere that melted snow refreezes at night.
▪ If your vehicle begins 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.
▪ 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.
▪ You can contact the Highway Patrol statewide on your cellphone by calling *HP (*47) or call local law enforcement by dialing 911. But don’t call 911 to check on road conditions.
▪ Do not attempt to deal with downed limbs or trees. They may be tangled in live power lines.