Easy does it: Icy roadways pose danger to motorists

Published 11:47 am Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Motorists — commuters, truck drivers and emergency-response personnel — could find driving treacherous this morning.

Most of eastern North Carolina is either under a winter weather advisory, a winter storm watch or a freezing rain advisory today. Those advisories and warnings took effect Tuesday. Beaufort County is under a winter weather advisory until 11 a.m. today, according to the National Weather Service office in Newport. In Beaufort County, there is a 70-percent chance of freezing rain tonight and Wednesday morning, changing to a slight chance of rain Wednesday night, according to the NWS. Moisture will move in from the south and southwest tonight and overspread a shallow cold-air mass, resulting in freezing rain, according to the NWS.

“What we essentially have going on here for this next event is actually referred to as the classical cold-air damming event, where you have a high-pressure system off to the north. Currently, it’s located over western New York state. What that does — it’s a very large system — is funnel cold air from the north right down along the mountains. Due to the rotation of the Earth and the location of the high, that cold air gets wedges in there. We call it a cold-air damming event,” said Jake Benedict, a freelance meteorologist, early Tuesday afternoon. “There’s a weak low-pressure system moving into the Georgia-Alabama area, and this is what’s moving into the Carolinas. It’s going to start the impact (Tuesday) tonight. Essentially, you have this warm, moist are that’s going to ride over this cold air that’s locked in at the surface. As it falls through that cold air, the rain is going to cool. Since it’s going to be about freezing at the surface, the rain will freeze on contact.”

Benedict said the freeze line would be “right along Highway 17.”

Beaufort County Schools plan to operate under a two-hour-delay plan today, but that plan could be modified depending upon weather conditions, said Sarah Hodges, public-information officer for the school system. Tuesday afternoon. The school system would do its best to notify students, parents and others about any changes to the delayed-opening plan as soon as possible, she said.

Motorists driving on the U.S. Highway 17 bypass bridge at Washington should exercise extreme caution, said 1st Sgt. Brandon Craft with the N.C. Highway Patrol’s office in Washington.

“Ice is going to accumulate really fast on that bridge. People need to reduce their speed drastically when they’re on that bridge,” he said.

Craft advised all area motorists to reduce their speed, especially after dark, because they will find it difficult, if not impossible, to locate icy patches, particularly on bridges and overpasses. Craft said motorists should leave plenty of room between their vehicles and other vehicles.

Area N.C. Department of Transportation crews were preparing Tuesday to deal with roads affected by freezing rain or other adverse weather conditions.

“We’ve put our spreaders on. We’ve put our brine applicators on. Now, it’s kind of a wait-and-see. If we get rain first, we probably can’t do a lot of pretreating. If it looks like the rain is going to hold off and it’s going to come in as frozen precipitation, then we will have a crew ready to pretreat the bridges and any roads that are necessary,” said Stan Paramore with the DOT maintenance office in Beaufort County about noon Tuesday.

City crews spent Tuesday putting spreaders on trucks but held of placing salt in those hoppers, said Allen Lewis, the city’s public-works director, Tuesday afternoon. That salt would be applied to city streets when those streets began to ice over, not before, he said. Applying salt before or during rain would result in the salt being washed away, he noted.

“We don’t want to not have an event and have to get all that salt out (of the spreaders),” Lewis said. “Everything will be sitting on go, waiting for the sleet to fall.”








About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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