The Triangle is looking at a mixed-weather mess starting Monday evening, forecasters said, and it all means slick roads by Tuesday morning.
Precipitation is supposed to start as snow, then change to sleet. Freezing rain is forecast for overnight.
The National Weather Service has a winter storm warning in effect beginning at 4 p.m. and running through 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Area schools that were having classes Monday announced that they would send students home early, and all districts canceled after-school activities, meetings and sports.
Chapel Hill Carrboro schools and Johnston County schools were having teacher work days Monday, but other activities had been scheduled. Johnston County was holding kindergarten registration, which it said would end at 4 p.m., and Chapel Hill Carrboro was having parent-teacher conferences, which were being scrubbed after 3 p.m.
The one possible blessing in the mix was that it should pass rapidly.
“By lunch time tomorrow, most of this will be moving out,” ABC11 meteorologist Don Schwenneker said Monday morning.
The weather service said little or no snow accumulation was expected before precipitation changed over to sleet, which was forecast to fall through the evening. Forecasters said there would be perhaps a quarter-inch of ice from freezing rain.
How and when the snow and sleet mix depends on how far south a low-pressure system dips, which is still uncertain, said Scott Sharp, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. If it tracks to the south, the Triangle gets more snow; to the north, it sees more freezing rain.
“It’s one of those ‘pick your poison’ things,” Sharp said.
Crews with the state Department of Transportation began spreading salt brine over roads in Wake, Durham and other counties Sunday, hoping to keep snow and ice from bonding to the surface.
Cary’s snow-fighting team also began brining Sunday, mixing 2,500 tons of salt-sand mix with 900 tons of pure salt. They had 723 linear miles of streets to cover, most of them inside subdivisions.
“For your safety and for the success of our operations, please keep a safe distance if you find yourself behind one of our brining trucks,” said Public Works Director Scott Hecht.
Raleigh, though, held fast on brining, opting instead to keep plows and spreaders ready. Chris McGee with the city Department of Public Works said he didn’t think the storm would leave Raleigh enough hours above 25 degrees Fahrenheit for the brine to evaporate, risking the possibility of it turning to black ice.
“I tend to err a little more on the safe side than I should,” he said. “I hope they have good luck with it.”
Winter weather began taking a toll on Sunday.
The North Carolina Zoo said Sunday that it would close to the public until Wednesday because of the freezing wind chills and because Saturday’s strong winds blew down trees in the park that were blocking visitor access.
Duke Energy reported widespread power outages. “We know the cold weather isn’t leaving. Our crews are continuing to assess & repair damage to restore the warmth,” read a tweet from Duke.
Precipitation is expected to taper off Tuesday morning, and Sharp said “the chances of a warmup are pretty close to nil.”