Lighter than predicted, snow still disrupts most of week

kjahner@newsobserver.comJanuary 31, 2014 

— The snowfall Tuesday night was lighter across Garner and the Triangle than forecasters had predicted, but its effects lingered into Thursday with slippery roads and another slew of closings and delays.

Wake and Johnston County Schools were closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. A handful of minor accidents cropped up around Garner, though no major injuries were reported. Most of the accidents occurred on Wednesday, and largely along the U.S. 70 corridor.

Temperatures stayed in the 20s during the day Wednesday and plunged overnight to the single digits. The National Weather Service put the region under a winter weather advisory until noon Thursday for black ice and snow-covered roadways.

Garner police spokesman Chris Clayton said there were about five accidents, none of them major. Though above averages, it put no strain on department resources.

“Certainly it didn’t make that big of an impact for us. I think a lot of people stayed home like we asked people too,” Clayton said.

Even on U.S. 70, as snow started to accumulate during a Council work session Tuesday evening, cars were few and far between around 8 p.m.

Temperatures reached the mid-30s Thursday under sunny skies.

The Town of Garner hustled to get as much of the snow cleared once the snow stopped falling, according to public works director Paul Cox.

“Our street division has put in a lot of hours working our snow removal equipment,” Cox said Thursday. “They pretty much plowed all night. Ramped up when the snow ended and plowed as long as they could plow.”

As temperatures dipped through the 20s and teens Wednesday night, workers had to quit as water on roadways refroze. The N.C. Department of Transportation had cleared Triangle interstate highways by mid-morning Wednesday, including roads like U.S. 70. Meanwhile Garner cleared its other major arteries such as Timber Drive as well as Vandora Springs and Aversboro roads; though state roads they are lower on the priority list for NCDOT.

As temperatures rose Thursday, Cox’ staff worked to clear as many neighborhoods as they could.

Falling is No. 1 hazard

At Triangle hospitals, injuries from automobile accidents were far outnumbered by falls and sledding accidents.

“Absolutely, falls are the number one injury that we see during the winter weather,” said Kristin Kelly, a spokeswoman for WakeMed.

The hospital system’s emergency rooms also saw several sledding-related injuries, though an exact count wasn’t immediately available. Among the injured were a number of adults, Kelly said.

Car crash injuries were relatively rare in comparison at all the local hospitals, their representatives said.

“A few have come in,” Kelly said. “But I think people are really heeding the advice of staying off the roads.”

The American Red Cross was forced to cancel blood drives and close collection centers because of the icy roads. It was urging eligible donors of all blood types to make appointments to replenish the blood supply online at redcrossblood.org or by telephone at 1-800-733-2767.

Why it wasn’t worse

The official measure at Raleigh-Durham International Airport was 1.4 inches of snow Tuesday night and early Wednesday – well below the 5 inches that the weather service had said might accumulate. Volunteer weather spotters around Wake County reported more snow, as much as 4 inches near Wendell.

The storm brought less snow than expected partly because the arctic air that drove into the state proved to be drier than computer models had suggested, the National Weather Service said. Some of the moisture from a low-pressure system along the coast saturated the air before snow could fall. The situation was similar to putting a new, dry sponge under a faucet, where it has to soak up water and soften before any can be squeezed out of it.

The highest snow total reported by the weather service was 7 inches in Kinston.

Bruce Siceloff, Colin Campbell, Andrew Kenney, Ron Gallagher and Caitlin Owens contributed.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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