Driving remains a county hazard

Published 7:03 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Winter weather has put it a hit on Beaufort County drivers: 47 accidents were recorded on Tuesday. According to local officials, driving conditions are expected to be much the same over Wednesday night into Thursday.

“Driving conditions will be as bad or worse than they were this morning,” John Pack, Beaufort County Emergency Management coordinator, said Wednesday afternoon. “This is the worse I’ve seen it for a while. It was awful this morning.”

Pack said the county was possibly looking at declaring a state of emergency on Wednesday afternoon in order to enlist the help of for-profit EMS services operating in the county, in response to the number of accidents.

“Yesterday, we ran out of ambulances and crews,” Pack said.

Pack said the county is bracing for as much as 2 to 4 inches of snow and/or sleet, plus another tenth of an inch of freezing rain overnight, but that could change depending on the storm’s trajectory.

“If it turns out to be snow, we could end up with more than six inches of snow,” Pack said.

Emergency management has prepared to open Washington and Southside high schools as shelters if the storm causes widespread power outages.

NCDOT Maintenance Engineer Robby Taylor said crews would be on standby overnight, ready to hit U.S. highways 17 and 264 first, secondary roads next, with salt trucks and snowplows.

“It’s kind of hard, from our perspective, to plan. It’s just so iffy,” Taylor said. “That’s the joys of eastern North Carolina.”

Sgt. Chris Lawrance urged drivers to stay off the roads unless it’s absolutely unavoidable, to avoid a repeat of what happened Tuesday.

“We had, I believe, 47 total (accidents) in Beaufort County, 67 in the district, just due to road conditions which were horrible at best,” Lawrance said. “People were just driving too fast for road conditions. What’s too fast depends on a couple of factors: people’s skills, people’s tires, people’s cars. What’s too fast for one person isn’t the same for another person. But ultimately, they ended up in the same spot, which was the ditch.”

Lawrance said the more troopers are out on the road to adjust for the increase in weather-related accidents, all of which have been limited to property damage and minor personal injuries so far.

Pack cautioned drivers to slow down if they see emergency responders at the scene of an accident.

“We had a couple of close calls with first responders yesterday,” Pack said. “I would ask that (drivers) give them a wide berth.”