In a small neighborhood in Southeast Raleigh stocked with townhomes and single-family homes, James Newsome was doing battle with Mother Nature on Saturday afternoon as he attempted to scrape hard-packed ice off the windshield of his shiny red Camaro.
Newsome, 48, and his sister had been without power since 9 p.m. Friday and, with the Duke Energy power outage map showing his power wouldn’t be restored until 11 p.m. Monday, he was ready to find a hotel room.
“It’s been real cold,” Newsome said, pounding away at the ice, his eyes watering. “You have to spend extra money now. We bought groceries before the storm and now you have to throw them away. It’s tough.”
The day after a winter storm swept through the East, freezing trees and power lines and shutting down much of the Triangle, more than 60,000 residents and businesses were without power Saturday evening.
Sunday is expected to bring sunshine and temperatures in the 40s to thaw out the region, but on Saturday a light snow fell in the morning and temperatures refused to budge above freezing. Duke Energy crews spent the day dealing with more downed lines as gusty winds brought down trees now coated with snow and ice.
The utility warned that many would not see their power return until late Monday.
“This is a multiday event,” said Duke Energy spokeswoman Meredith Archie.
Max Gore, 30, who lives in the Sunnybrook Estates neighborhood along with Newsome, left his house earlier in the day and bought a $700 generator from the store to power his home.
“I’m getting ready to set it up now,” Gore said. “We debated today on getting a hotel but decided not to because it said online, our power would be restored today.”
If his power isn’t restored, Gore said, he and his three family members would get a hotel room.
Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials urged residents to stay off the roads Saturday.
McCrory went so far as to discourage people from attending the Duke-N.C. State men’s basketball game Saturday afternoon in Raleigh.
“The roads today are in worse condition than they were last night,” McCrory said at a Saturday news conference. Although the roads might look safe, black ice makes them dangerous, he said.
But from the packed stands at PNC Arena – 19,500 people attended, many arriving in busloads – few appeared to have taken his suggestion and watched the game on TV.
Statewide, vehicle accidents have caused six fatalities, and the State Highway Patrol has logged 406 collisions since midnight Friday.
The Triangle – most notably, Wake, Johnston and Harnett counties – was hit harder by the storm than any other region of the state.
“Mother Nature gave us a curveball,” said McCrory, who noted that the storm didn’t follow the path that was predicted.
Duke Energy was reporting as of 5 p.m. Saturday that 35,000 Wake County customers were without power, as were 20,000 Johnston County customers, 8,000 in Harnett County and a handful in Durham County.
In Zebulon, a 30-person crew worked to restore power lines that served almost 1,000 customers.
“This area has been hit pretty hard,” Archie said. “It’s the ice. Snow isn’t a big (factor) as far as electricity goes.”
She estimated that tree limbs and power lines were weighed down with between one-quarter inch and one-half inch of ice.
“Our crews have been working to keep up,” she said Saturday. “We had crews out late last night and early this morning.”
Across the Carolinas, Duke Energy was deploying nearly 7,000 workers, including out-of-state crews that came from as far as Michigan, and has restored about 200,000 outages.
In Johnston County, emergency officials opened up Clayton High School as a shelter Friday night, and they extended its opening until Sunday morning. Residents were allowed to bring personal items such as bedding, medication, infant supplies and personal documents but could not bring pets.
Sanderson High School in Wake County also opened its doors as a shelter.
Many people opted to just get out of their cold houses and seek refuge and warmth in the businesses that were open.
That meant a busy day for Grounds Cafe, a coffee shop in the Wendell Falls community. The space was unusually busy with families opening tabs for food and drinks at the coffee bar and staying for hours to take advantage of the heat and wi-fi.
Durham singer-songwriter Spencer Scholes played acoustic music for the crowd – making up his canceled performance from Friday night.
And in downtown Raleigh, The Morning Times had turned into a community living room for much of the day. Kids huddled around a computer to watch a movie while their parents drank coffee and talked or worked on their computers. Many said they were there because their power still was out.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport reported Saturday that nearly 150 arrivals and departures scheduled for the day were canceled. Just 13 flights were scheduled to depart from RDU.
All JetBlue and Southwest flights were canceled for Saturday, although both airlines anticipate that flights will resume on Sunday.
Mail delivery resumed Saturday in some areas.
The U.S. Postal Service had shut its Triangle post offices and canceled deliveries on Friday but reinstated service Saturday where the roads were deemed safe.
The state’s electric cooperatives reported shortly before noon Saturday that they had reduced power outages from a peak of 25,000 Friday night to nearly 8,900. The cooperatives serve 1 million customers in 93 counties.
While the rest of the Triangle waits for its power to turn on, Newsome said he has no plans to wait up. He said he hadn’t checked room availability at hotels, but hoped he’d find one in the area.
“If we can’t find one, I guess we’ll have to go to another city, maybe Knightdale,” Newsome said. And I’m not even sure Knightdale has any hotels.”
Lauren Kent, Colin Campbell and Jill Knight contributed to this story
Outage system knocked out
Duke Energy’s system for reporting outages, both online and by phone, was out of commission for a few hours Friday evening and suffered intermittent problems early Saturday. But those problems have been resolved.
“We apologize for the frustration and the inconvenience,” Duke Energy spokeswoman Meredith Archie said Saturday.
Duke Energy asks customers to report outages at 800-419-6356 or online at bit.ly/1il0b6o.