The Triangle is greeting Friday well-warned and fully stocked, hunkered down for a two-day beating that could dump as much as 6 inches of snow, coat power lines in ice and turn roads into a giant slalom course.
Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Johnston and Chapel Hill schools, as well as UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University and N.C. State University, announced on a cloudless Thursday that they would shut their doors Friday before the worst of the storm hit, an announcement that came only hours after Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency and shoppers picked the grocery shelves clean.
“Popcorn is in the house,” said Reggie Paster, 59, heading out of Trader Joe’s in Raleigh. “Wood is in the fireplace. I’m as prepared as I need to be.”
“The guy in front of me had five bottles of wine,” added Ian Shields, also a Trader Joe’s customer. “That’s all he had. He didn’t think there was going to be much of a storm, but he was ready anyway.”
The prelude to Winter Storm Jonas started Wednesday night and killed two people in its first day, both motorists on slick roads in Forsyth and Stokes counties near Winston-Salem. Multiple airlines canceled Friday and weekend flights, and Raleigh-Durham International Airport urged fliers to check schedules first. McCrory asked that travelers think twice and drive only if necessary, monitoring road conditions through readync.org or by dialing 511.
A full list of closings is available at nando.com/closings.
“Winter has finally arrived in North Carolina,” McCrory said. “Our goal is to be overprepared and underwhelmed. ... I don’t mind embarrassing weather forecasters. I hope they’re wrong.”
Forecasters called for the southern and eastern portions of the Triangle to see snowfall of between 1 and 3 inches, with up to 6 inches falling to the north and west starting early Friday. Accumulation depends on where, when and if snow turns to freezing rain.
“I’ve got some cold cuts,” said Vivian Weaver, 53, exiting Trader Joe’s. “I’ve got some tangelos. I’ve got some spinach. I’m a spring baby. My family up North says, ‘Y’all are babies. Immature babies. We are. We are.’ ”
The governor promised to decide soon whether to release state employees early Friday, hoping to avoid congestion in hazardous driving conditions. He asked motorists to stay off roads unless driving was unavoidable. And the N.C. Zoo near Asheboro has announced it will close through the weekend.
Wake County students at traditional-calendar and modified-calendar schools will make up the snow day on Feb. 15; April 2 for year-round students on Tracks 1, 2 and 3.
The two leadership academies will make up the day on Feb. 16. The Wake Early College of Health Science and the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy will have classes March 3.
The Wake STEM Early College will now have classes May 6.
Meanwhile, state Department of Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson said nearly 1,000 workers will work the roads with roughly 500 pieces of equipment, noting that salt brine had already been applied in many areas. An additional 87 National Guardsmen were expected on duty by Thursday night.
McCrory said the state will work harder to help stranded motorists by checking every abandoned car and marking it with a sticker. “Everyone assumes no one’s in there,” he said.
Unnecessary travel during the storm only puts people at risk, he said.
The weather service said it expected precipitation to begin in the Triangle between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Friday.
RDU officials said Thursday afternoon that JetBlue and Southwest airlines were shutting down their RDU operations until Sunday. Both airlines canceled flights scheduled for late Thursday arrival, as well as all RDU arrivals and departures scheduled for Friday and Saturday. United, Delta and American airlines canceled some Friday flights.
McCrory said the state is focusing on Charlotte, the Triangle, Rocky Mount, Wilson and Fayetteville. Snowfall should be lighter east of Interstate 95, where a winter weather advisory warned of up to an inch of snow and ice Friday morning turning to rain by afternoon. As much as a quarter-inch of ice could accumulate on trees, threatening power outages from fallen limbs.
The weather service predicted that winds could pick up to 25 mph at the same time Friday night when area trees and power lines are being coated with freezing precipitation. Barring power outages, if the parking lot at Trader Joe’s is any gauge, the Triangle will be ready.
“Wine is right at the top of my list,” said Tonia Gebhart, who works there. “That’s the only time I get to hang out with my neighbors.”
Staff writer Bruce Siceloff contributed to this report.
Tips for ice and snow
▪ If the power goes out, contact Duke Energy Progress at 800-419-6356 or Wake Electric Membership Corp. at 919-863-6499 or 800-743-3155.
▪ 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.