Winter storm kills three in NC as ‘staggering’ amount of snow falls

A rare pre-Christmas storm continued to pummel the Triangle on Monday, and Gov. Roy Cooper reported the mix of snow and freezing rain has killed at least three people in North Carolina.

Conditions are expected to improve Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. But by Monday morning, the N.C. Highway Patrol had reported 672 car collisions statewide.

“Please realize the potential for danger is very real,” Highway Patrol Commander Glenn McNeill said at a news conference.

More than 2,000 trees fell during the winter storm, cutting power to more than 250,000 homes at the storm’s peak.

“This storm dropped staggering amounts of snow, ice and rain across our state,” Cooper said Monday. “A year’s worth of snow fell in some places in little more than a day.”

The state opened 15 emergency shelters, most of them in the mountain counties where snow fell more than a foot deep in places.

Schools were closed in 76 of 100 North Carolina counties Monday, with 10 more systems operating on a delay. The following Triangle school systems said they would remain closed Tuesday: Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Wake, Durham, Chatham and Orange counties.

Cooper reported three storm-related deaths: a man killed in Matthews when a tree fell on his truck; a Haywood County woman who died while on hospice care during the storm, and a Yadkin County resident who died from a heart-related condition while on the way to a shelter.

A tractor-trailer crashed into the Neuse River near Kinston, damaging a bridge on U.S. 70, Assistant Department of Transportation Director Bobby Lewis said. Divers and searchers in boats were still looking for the driver, the Highway Patrol reported.

By Monday morning, Lewis said, more than 35,000 tons of salt and sand had been applied to N.C. roads. The storm hit coastal areas with flooding, particularly N.C. 12 on the Outer Banks.

Brig. Gen. Todd Hunt of the N.C. National Guard reported five families in Wilkes County in the mountains were rescued after power outages there threatened small children. Guardsmen were able to navigate “impassable” roads, he said, and take roughly 20 victims to a shelter.

“I know it’s frustrating to be without power, particularly when it’s so cold,” Cooper said, urging caution. “Please let Mother Nature and our DOT crews finish clearing roads.”

As of Monday morning, 7.5 inches of snow were recorded in parts of Raleigh, with the highest totals in North Raleigh, according to the weather service.

Much of Durham County saw up to 9 inches of snow, but at least one area in the northwest part of the county received 14 inches of snow. Pittsboro saw 6 inches of snow, and Chapel Hill recorded 7 inches.

Cary saw anywhere from 5.5 to 7.5 inches, according to the weather service. In Garner, people saw 4.5 inches, and there were 3.5 inches in Clayton and as much as 8 inches in Wake Forest.

Areas around Winston-Salem saw up to 14.5 inches of snow. Parts of Greensboro recorded almost a foot of snow, and High Point saw 10 inches.

By Monday evening, fewer than 2,000 homes and businesses still lacked power in Orange and Durham counties, Duke Energy reported. Fewer than 300 Chatham County homes were without power at that time, down from a peak of nearly 8,000 on Sunday afternoon, county officials said.

Duke Energy reported that only 759 of its more than 444,000 Wake County customers lacked power Monday morning.

If your power goes out, call these numbers:

▪ Duke Power: 800-769-3766. Duke customers may also receive text notifications for power outages in their area. Text REG to 57801 for text alerts.

▪ Piedmont Electric: Main office, 800-449-2667; or 800-222-3107 to report an outage

▪ PSNC: 877-776-2427 (signs of a gas leak)

The court system in Orange and Chatham counties, and county government offices, parks, and waste and most recycling centers, were closed or closing early on Monday. The Hillsborough Town Board meeting scheduled for Monday night has been delayed to Dec. 17.

Chatham County government offices are set to open on a two-hour delay Tuesday, at 10 a.m., but Orange County government offices and the Orange-Chatham court system is closed. The Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday night is canceled but could be rescheduled.

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UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University announced they would cancel exams Monday. N.C. State will open at 11 a.m. Tuesday and move exams to the weekend.

Information about the UNC System Adverse Weather Policy can be found at go.ncsu.edu/adverseweather.

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A utility vehicle clears the driveway to the Carrboro police station on Monday morning, Dec. 10, 2018. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

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About 30 departing flights had been canceled at Raleigh-Durham International Airport as of 11:30 a.m Monday., mostly in the early morning hours. Numerous other flights have been delayed. RDU reports that most airlines are operating normally but encourages travelers to check their flight status at https://www.rdu.com/airline-information/flight-status/ before heading to the airport.

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Motorists are advised to drive carefully. The latest road conditions are at drivenc.gov.

Staff writers Abbie Bennett, Charles Duncan and Tammy Grubb contributed to this report.

Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.
News & Observer reporter Abbie Bennett is a charter member of the McClatchy Carolinas real-time team. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and has won awards for her investigative, politics and breaking news reporting.