The Triangle hunkered down as a triple punch of snow, sleet and freezing rain swept across the state Monday evening, threatening to weigh down power lines and turn roads into skating rinks.
With sub-freezing temperatures lingering throughout Tuesday – and possibly dipping to zero near the end of the week – the biting cold poses real danger.
“It’s going to be record-setting,” said ABC11 meteorologist Chris Hohmann. “It’s going to be a significant threat for people who don’t have their power back.”
Flakes began falling as early as 4 p.m. Monday, with ice expected to build up a quarter- to a half-inch thick. The state dispatched a fleet of snow and ice-fighting trucks, spreading 1.3 million gallons of salt brine statewide and 150,000 gallons in Wake County alone.
Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency statewide.
“Here we go again,” McCrory said. “Let’s hope we’re overprepared and underwhelmed by this storm. You never know.”
The Wake, Johnston, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Chatham, Durham and Orange school systems announced that they would be closed Tuesday. UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State and Duke universities canceled Tuesday morning classes.
The one possible blessing in the messy mix? It should pass rapidly.
“By lunchtime tomorrow, most of this will be moving out,” ABC11 meteorologist Don Schwenneker said Monday.
Triangle ABC stores shut down early Monday evening with overflowing crowds. “I wish our store was as busy as the (Cameron Village) ABC store is right now!” said a tweet from Capital RunWalk, a running supply shop in Raleigh.
In the western half of Raleigh, Burke Brothers Hardware saw a steady flow of customers seeking ice-melting solution and sleds.
The Nation Weather Service said little or no snow accumulation was expected before precipitation changed over to sleet, which was forecast to fall through Monday 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. That is still uncertain, said Scott Sharp, a meteorologist with the weather service. If the system 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.
Raleigh kept its plows and spreaders ready. The city stockpiled at least 2,000 tons of salt for icy conditions and kept 42 trucks equipped with salt spreaders and plows. There also are three city and contract motor graders, a variety of loaders and four-wheel drive vehicles, all available for use during inclement weather.
Staff writers Ron Gallagher and Thomasi McDonald contributed to this report.