Snow day

Published 11:03 pm Wednesday, January 21, 2009

By Staff
Four years separate significant snowfalls
Contributing Editor
The first major winter storm in the Washington area in a little more than four years had road-clearing crews, power providers and emergency-services personnel preparing to deal with its aftermath today.
The last significant snowfall in the area came on Dec. 21, 2004, when 6 inches of snow accumulated. From March 1-2, 1980, a blizzard-like winter storm left 19 inches of snow in the Washington area.
Up to 7 inches of snow fell in some areas of eastern North Carolina on Tuesday. Specific precipitation amounts for Washington and other towns in the area were not immediately available from the National Weather Service office in Newport.
In Washington, the temperature dipped to 30 degrees at 5:23 a.m. Tuesday. By 2:43 p.m., it had fallen to 25 degrees, according to the NWS. Today’s high should be near 36 and tonight’s low near 22.
Emergency officials stressed keeping roads as safe as possible for motorists during the storm recovery. Also high on their priority list were restoring power, if and when it went out, and responding to vehicle accidents on icy roads.
Highway Patrol Troop A, which covers northeastern North Carolina, had received reports of about 130 weather-related minor traffic accidents from early Tuesday morning to a little past 2 p.m., according to 1st Sgt. K.P. Pitts with the Troop A Division IV office in Washington.
Troopers probably will be busy investigating scores of weather-related accidents this morning, Pitts said.
N.C. Department of Transportation trucks equipped with snow plows and salt spreaders were deployed between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Tuesday in Beaufort County, said Robby Taylor, DOT’s county maintenance engineer, shortly before noon Tuesday.
Taylor said the western areas of Beaufort County, the area along the U.S. Highway 264 corridor just east of Washington and the area along the U.S. Highway 17 corridor just north of Washington had accumulated more snow by 11 a.m. than other areas of the county.
Taylor said DOT crews would work through the night Tuesday and early today to clear as many roads of snow and ice as possible. He expects this morning to be dangerous for traffic.
He advised people not to drive this morning unless absolutely necessary, but those who must drive should exercise caution.
In Washington, city crews “presalted” city streets before the snow began falling Tuesday.
The plows will begin rolling when snow on city streets reaches a depth of 3 to 4 inches, Smith said.
John Pack, Beaufort County’s emergency management coordinator, was more worried about what would happen Tuesday night and early this morning and less about the snowfall Tuesday afternoon when he was at his office.
No major storm-related problems were reported to his office Tuesday, he said.
Pack said the storm got noticed.
No power outages had been reported in Washington Electric Utilities’ service area as of 1 p.m. Tuesday. Before the snow began falling, WEU personnel began making preparations to handle power outages, Smith said.
Tideland Electric Membership Corp. reported a power outage in Oriental in Pamlico County, said spokeswoman Heidi Jernigan Smith. That outage left 55 customers without power, she said.
Tideland crews worked normal hours Tuesday, but those crews were on call in case they were needed later, Smith said.
The co-op brought in “extra provisions” in case they are needed today, she added.
Tideland serves customers in Beaufort, Washington, Hyde, Dare and Craven counties.
Progress Energy, which supplies electricity to parts of Beaufort County, had no reports of power outages as of 1 p.m. Tuesday.
All Beaufort County public schools will be closed today for students and all 10- and 12-month employees.
The Beaufort County Early College High School program at Beaufort County Community College will be closed today for students and all staff.
Washington’s City Hall will open two hours late today.