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Getting to work in the Triangle may be easy Wednesday; getting home, not so much

Chapel Hill starts off the morning with snow

Snow began falling in Chapel Hill and Carrboro just before 8 a.m., quickly creating a winter wonderland.
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Snow began falling in Chapel Hill and Carrboro just before 8 a.m., quickly creating a winter wonderland.

Those who headed to work in the early stages of the winter storm on Wednesday morning will have a harder time getting home.

The storm’s late arrival in the Triangle meant that roads were still dry in many places as the sun came up. But the snow came, and forecasters say anywhere from 3 to 7 inches could fall in central North Carolina by day’s end.

State and local road crews had plenty of warning, and spent the last couple of days spreading a layer of brine on main roads and highways in the Triangle. Jason Dunigan, Wake County maintenance engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said he was fully staffed Wednesday morning, with trucks filled and staged throughout the county.

“As soon as it starts falling, we’ll be out there ready to salt and push,” Dunigan said shortly before 6 a.m.

Forecasts call for up to six inches of snow in the Triangle area.

As always, road crews focused on primary roads and interstates first, meaning that secondary roads and residential streets will likely be snow-covered by late Wednesday if the forecast holds up.

In contrast to the Triangle’s first winter storm of 2018 two weeks ago, this one will be followed by warming weather. After a cold night in the teens, temperatures are expected to reach the upper 30s on Thursday and near 50 on Friday. Dunigan said that will give road crews the upper hand.

“Mother Nature should help us pretty good,” he said.

Dunigan’s advice to drivers: “If you don’t have to get out, please don’t. Stay home. If you do have to get out, just give us room to work.”

With the potential of winter weather this week, here are some tips for driving on icy or snow-covered roads.

Except in Chapel Hill, public bus service began the day on schedule. GoCary, GoDurham and GoTriangle all said they would operate a normal schedule Wednesday, but changed course when the snow got heavy. GoCary and GoDurham service will end at 1 p.m., while GoTriangle buses will stop running at 2 p.m.

Chapel Hill Transit delayed the start of its bus service, then decided mid-morning to cancel it for the rest of the day.

Only GoRaleigh says it will continued to operate its buses through the day.

State and local road crews will work through the day and into the night. As temperatures drop overnight, some areas will become difficult to plow, and most crews will take the first break they’ve had in 24 hours, according to NCDOT. Skeletal crews will switch to putting more salt on the roads to get them ready to plow first thing Thursday morning.

“Statewide, we have nearly 1,500 employees with more than 1,000 trucks and graders ready to clear roads, with assistance from more than 540 contractor trucks,” state Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said in a statement. “Our salt and sand supplies were replenished across the state from the storm earlier this month so plenty of those materials are on hand.”

Airlines canceled several flights in and out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Wednesday. Southwest canceled all its flights, and American and United canceled all but their regional flights. Among the flights that are moving, delays are common.

Travelers are advised to check with their airline before heading to the airport. You can also find the status of RDU flights at www.rdu.com/airline-information/flight-status/.

Check out the ABC11 weather forecast as we head into colder weather and the possibility of snow.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling

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