Ice remains threat

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 12, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
and Scott Jenkins
Transportation and law enforcement officials are warning drivers to be careful if they have to drive on icy roads this morning, and to stay off the roads if they can.
Tuesday’s temperatures didn’t rise above the freezing mark and were expected to drop to around 22 degrees overnight. While transportation crews cleared major roadways, many secondary roads throughout the county remain untouched after a winter storm left a glaze of ice atop a covering of snow.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation planned to hit the roads again at 6 this morning, working to clear ice across Rowan County.
John Thomason, transportation supervisor for the Rowan County Transportation Department branch, said although crews cleared Interstate 85 and main routes such as Jake Alexander and Innes Streets on Tuesday, ice was likely to form overnight.
“We’ll have to run over the main roads with salt,” he said.
Thomason said with only a few secondary routes being cleared Tuesday, roadways remain hazardous.
“They are solid ice,” he said.
Secondary roads, subdivision streets, overpasses and bridges are especially susceptible to black ice.
Thomason said 28 trucks with spreaders and plows, four contract trucks with spreaders and about 10 trucks with graders worked until 8 p.m. Tuesday. Crews are using the plows to scrape the roads and spreaders to distribute salt.
A Department of Transportation press release issued Tuesday said that as of Jan. 7 — before the winter storm hit — the agency had already spent $26.2 million of the $30 million budgeted this fiscal year for snow and ice removal. If the state agency needs extra money, it will be drawn from the general maintenance budget.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Blair Holloway told the Post as temperatures dip into the mid-teens through the next several nights, motorists should continue to drive with caution.
“Certainly, as temperatures dip below freezing any wet roadways will refreeze if they aren’t frozen already,” he said Monday.
Holloway also warned drivers to be wary of patches of black ice on seemingly clear streets.
Most people have been taking warning of hazardous driving conditions to heart, staying off the roadways.
The N.C. Highway Patrol had responded to about four collisions in Rowan County between midnight and 5 p.m. Tuesday. The agency investigated about 30 accidents Monday between 5:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., but none with serious injuries.
“The call volumes have been comparatively light,” Sgt. B.E. Hower said. “I think people are doing the right thing, so we aren’t having a bunch of collisions.”
Some Rowan County residents had to get out Tuesday for work and other tasks.
Patrick Rose rode with his sister Tuesday morning to visit relatives and said she “was having a tough time. There were a few slippery spots.”
In the afternoon, Rose started chipping away at the ice and snow covering the driveway at the house on U.S. 29 he shares with his girlfriend, Sherri Burchfield. He wanted to clear the drive before she got home from work.
It was a daunting job. Rose had a long driveway and a shovel and hoe to break up the ice. The New York native has lived in North Carolina four years.
“We haven’t really had any need of snow gear since we’ve been down here,” he said. “But it looks like the first opportunity, we’re going to be going out and getting some.”
Yatta Marnwenh drove to her job at Genesis Eldercare in the morning, then to the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles office on U.S. 29 in the afternoon to renew her driver’s license, which was to expire today.
She said driving on icy roads Tuesday morning was “a little scary.”
When Marnwenh arrived at the license office around 3:15 p.m., hers was the only vehicle in the parking lot. Nobody else was inside getting their driver’s licenses or getting them renewed.
She took short, careful strides across the ice-covered parking lot at the license office and said she’d already fallen earlier in the day on the parking lot where she works.
Marnwenh wasn’t injured in her fall, but Rowan Regional Medical Center said its emergency department treated six people Tuesday who had been hurt when slipping and falling on ice.
Staff at the hospital recommend people take care in wintry weather, shoveling snow slowly — and not at all with heart or back problems — wearing layers when going outside and treading lightly on icy roads and sidewalks.
Marnwenh, who said she’ll know today how sore she is from her fall, is sure to take that advice to heart. And her plan for getting to work this morning is probably sage advice for anyone who, like her, must be on the roads.
“I’m just going to get up early and do the same thing I did today,” she said, “drive slowly and with caution.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683. Shavonne Potts contributed.