Cooper: 3 deaths now linked to winter weather storm

December 11, 2018 GMT

Residents in central North Carolina were grappling for a second day with frozen precipitation that made driving treacherous. But sunshine and temperatures forecast to climb into the 40s are expected to dramatically reduce the threat of snow and ice -- at least until Tuesday night, when temperatures are expected to dip below freezing again.

5 p.m.: A winter weather advisory has been extended until 11 a.m. Wednesday for a large swath of the Triangle because of temperatures that are expected to dip below freezing for several hours overnight. Water or slushy ice could refreeze and pose a problem during the morning commute.

4:45 p.m.: Several local school districts have announced closings or late starts on Wednesday. Check out the full list here.

10:30 a.m.: A third storm-related death was reported Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper said during a news conference, and a fourth death is under investigation. A man was working to free a stuck truck on Interstate 77 when he suffered a medical emergency. He died at a nearby hospital.

About 38,000 homes and businesses remain without power, Cooper said, noting that crews have restored power to more than 500,000 customers since the weekend.

“This was the first winter storm of the season, and it lived up to the hype,” he said.

Tim Little, chief engineer of the state Department of Transportation, said 2,000 DOT workers and 900 contractors have worked to clear highways in recent days, dumping 38,000 tons of salt on roads to melt ice. All major roads in central North Carolina should be cleared by the end of Tuesday, he said.

The State Highway Patrol has responded to 5,816 calls since Sunday, including 2,326 crashes, said patrol commander, Col. Glenn McNeill.

Sixty school districts remain closed, and 17 others were on a delayed schedule Tuesday, Cooper said, adding that getting students back to school is a top priority for the state.

“Hang in there parents. The snow days are almost over,” he said. “We’re going to try to get those kids back in school as quickly as we can.”

Fortunately, he said, districts that missed weeks of school after Hurricane Florence weren’t affected much by the winter storm.

Slick roads remain a danger, Cooper said, urging people to stay home if possible.

“If conditions in your area are still dangerous, don’t risk it,” he said. “Sit tight and wait for the sunshine and safety.”

Later in the week, flooding could pose another danger, as melting snow combines with expected heavy rainfall from another weather system.

9:15 a.m.: National Weather Service has extended the winter weather advisory until 11 a.m. WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said the threat of frozen precipitation and the danger it poses likely led to that decision. “It’s still cold enough for some slick spots,” she said.

8:45 a.m.: A car was in the median on U.S. 1 Southbound and Ten Ten Road, closing a lane.

8:07 a.m.: A truck overturned on U.S. 15-501 Southbound and NC Highway 54 after driving over a patch of ice.

WRAL News reporter Claudia Rupcich said that the driver used his brakes, lost control, hit a tree and overturned several times.

The driver was not hurt.

8:05 a.m.: A pickup truck spun out on a bridge N.C. Highway 54 in Durham after hitting ice, WRAL reporter Adam Owens said. The truck landed perpendicular to the road.

8 a.m.: A vehicle crash on Interstate 40 Westbound closed the left lane at N.C. Highway 55.

7:49 a.m.: Major roads across the Triangle were smooth Tuesday morning after scattered accidents earlier were cleared.

Emergency crews responded to an accident on Interstate 40 at Gorman Street Tuesday morning, where two out of three lanes were closed. A car had ran off the road.

Lanes reopened by 7:30 a.m.

A car overturned on a U.S. Highway 15/501 North overpass, above Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, at Pickett Road. Police later blocked a road off the ramp.

No serious injuries were reported.

Although many streets dried out Monday, dropping temperatures froze what snow had melted.

WRAL News reporter Brian Shrader said freezing is most likely in the northern and western parts of the Triangle.

Because bridges and ramps freeze before other roads, drivers should be especially cautious for ice.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation put more than 3,700 tons of salt-sand mixture on roads since the winter storm started last weekend.

Many crews were dispatched early Tuesday morning.

Officials recommend drivers leave plenty of room between other vehicles and leave plenty of time to drive to destinations.