‘Stay put:’ NC’s icy winter storm cancels flights and makes travel treacherous

·2 min read

The silent creep of early morning snowfall in the Triangle quickly turned to the patter of ice pellets Sunday as a winter storm gripped most of North Carolina, seizing roads, downing power lines and making travel treacherous.

Most of the storm’s snow fell in Western North Carolina counties, which saw inches of snow blanket the mountain region. The Triangle’s snowfall was minimal, instead switching to sleet and freezing rain.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation urged motorists to stay home Sunday.

“After the storm hits, please stay home and off the roads,” NCDOT chief operating officer Beau Memory said in a news release before the storm. “NCDOT and contractor crews will do the best they can to clear roads as quickly as possible, but we ask everyone to be safe and stay patient.”

The storm canceled most of the flights scheduled for Raleigh-Durham International Airport Sunday, with airport officials reporting nearly 150 flights had been called off.

Gov. Roy Cooper urged state residents to shelter in place if possible, as below-freezing temperatures and sleet made roadways icy.

“The best way to avoid a car accident or being stranded is to stay put,” Cooper said Sunday during a news briefing. “Please don’t take unnecessary chances with this dangerous winter storm.”

A car travels up an icy slope of U.S. 70 near Brier Creek in Raleigh, N.C. Sunday morning, January 16, 2022 as a mixture of sleet and freezing rain falls on the Triangle area.
A car travels up an icy slope of U.S. 70 near Brier Creek in Raleigh, N.C. Sunday morning, January 16, 2022 as a mixture of sleet and freezing rain falls on the Triangle area.

The North Carolina office of Emergency Management reported more than 40,000 were without power by noon. State officials said that number is expected to climb throughout Sunday.

Most of the outages occurred in the western part of the state, according to Duke Energy. In the Triangle, power outages impacted more than 3,000 people, and 10,000 were without power west of Fayetteville.

On Interstate 95, an icy, low-hanging power lines shut down both lanes of travel on the highway near St. Pauls in Robeson County, about 30 miles north of the South Carolina border.

By mid-morning, many of the Triangle’s transit services had suspended service, including buses from Chapel Hill Transit, GoDurham and the Morrisville Smart Shuttle.

The National Weather Service reported the first flakes in the Triangle fell in North Raleigh around 5:35 a.m. That snow had turned to ice a few hours later, with the Triangle counties expected to see as much as a quarter to a half-inch of ice accumulation.

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