Winter storm causes road havoc in Garner

kjahner@newsobserver.comFebruary 14, 2014 

  • Safety tips

    •  Make sure all combustible materials, such as drapes or chairs, are at least 3 feet away from any heating unit.

    • Avoid using propane heaters inside or flammable liquids to start fireplaces, and do not leave a fireplace unattended.

    • Do not attempt to deal with downed limbs or trees on a street or sidewalk since they may be tangled in live power lines. Report downed wires to your utility company.

    • Use gasoline-powered electric generators in well-ventilated areas, and only plug in individual appliances. Never connect a generator to a wall outlet.

    Sources: N.C. Department of Transportation; city of Raleigh; town of Cary; Duke Energy

— The winter storm that swept through the state Wednesday caused its share of problems in Garner, producing over a dozen accidents and plenty of gridlock and chaos as commuters tried to make their way home.

In addition, police responded to a break-in at Team Power Sports on U.S. 70, apprehending all four subjects, using police dogs on two.

But injuries and the post-apocalyptic-like scenes of scores of abandoned cars were largely avoided, as were power outages, major accidents and downed trees.

By Thursday, most of the main roads of Garner had been plowed and Garner’s public works department was working on neighborhood streets.

“The temperature moderating has been a big help. If you can get to a main drag you can probably get to where you want to go today,” department director Paul Cox said late Thursday morning, though regional officials and Garner police spokesman Chris Clayton were still advising people to stay home.

Cox was also hopeful that wet roads – and a paucity of people on them – would minimize the effects of the 1 to 3 inches of additional snow expected to fall during the day Thursday. He did caution that forecasted overnight temperatures in the mid-20s could freeze some of that moisture overnight.

With many in the Triangle underestimating either the extent of the storm effects or the speed at which conditions deteriorated, commutes Wednesday lengthened into hours-long affairs for some. Roads such as U.S. 70 slowed to a crawl amid the falling snow blanketing the road and limiting visibility. N.C. 50 saw perhaps the worst delays, with south-bound cars backed up from Rand Road nearly to U.S. 70 for hours.

From 12:25 p.m. – about a half-hour after the first flakes started falling in Garner – to 7 p.m., Garner police received calls to 13 accidents, though four cancelled their requests for help and exchanged information on their own, Clayton said.

The action slowed around 7 p.m., with overall call volumes dipping below that of a typical Wednesday night, Clayton said, despite sleet freezing rain and ice continuing to fall overnight. He also said Thursday that Garner didn’t have Raleigh’s abandoned vehicle problem and that no downed tree limbs or power lines had been reported.

By Thursday, just a scattering of a few dozen outages in the Garner area showed up on Duke Progress maps, mostly centered on subdivisions between Rand and Ten Ten roads south of Garner.

Gridlocked roads

At the town council retreat at the Garner Performing Arts Center, Garner Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief Matt Poole walked in and informed those there that he had just come from an N.C. 50 that had been gridlocked southbound. The retreat continued but some staff had already started to pack up and head to their homes outside of Garner.

By early afternoon, cars backed up from Rand Road about 3.5 miles, nearly to U.S. 70, a situation that improved little over the course of the afternoon.

“(N.C.) 50 Highway was a major issue,” Clayton said. “People were having trouble getting up a hill near Rand Road.

That caused problems on Timber Drive as well, he said, as cars attempting to turn south on N.C. 50 clogged traffic in both directions.

Part of U.S. 401 was also closed briefly because of the impassibility of a hill near Buffaloe Lanes bowling alley, Clayton said.

Cox said the gridlock prevented much of the plowing on major roads in the afternoon and evening, so trucks instead hit some neighborhoods as the traffic slowly cleared. Crews shifted to main drags around 11 p.m. he said, with more work on collector streets done in the morning, an effort that was ongoing.

“We’re out there moving as much as we can right now,” he said late Thursday morning.

One of Wake County’s shelters for people affected by the storm had been set up at Garner United Methodist Church. Police took two people there after they were stranded at Wal Mart when bus services shut down.

Mirage of opportunity

Garner police responded to a break-in at Team Power Sports on U.S. 70 at 1:30 a.m., apprehending four suspects that attempted to flee the scene. Two of the suspects were caught by K-9 units, according to Garner police spokesman Chris Clayton.

The four Raleigh teenagers were Kenyon R, Tuck, 18, Brian L. Clarke, 17, Tyreik I Peebles, 17, and Shandreik D. Wilson, 18.

“When there’s bad weather, whether it’s winter storms or hurricanes, we will see times when people believe that our resources are taxed or believe we will not be able to respond, and see an opportunity to break into stuff,” Clayton said.

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

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