Wintry mix reaches eastern North Carolina

Published 12:44 am Saturday, January 7, 2017

Not only is Winter Storm Helena bringing a mix of wintry precipitation to the area, it’s leaving behind frigid temperatures in its wake.

That precipitation was expected to end Saturday night, but roadways are expected to remain hazardous into Sunday, possibly Monday, depending on snowfall amounts. A winter storm warning remains in effect for the area.

Freezing rain and sleet, possibly mixed with snow, will fall Saturday morning, changing to all snow about noon, according to the National Weather Service office in Newport. The forecast for Sunday calls for sunny skies.

Snow accumulation in Washington is predicted to be from 3 inches to 4 inches, with Belhaven expected to have 2 inches to 3 inches of snow accumulation, according to NWS forecasters.

Temperatures in the low teens to 20s combined with north/northwesterly winds around 25 miles an hour at times likely will result in wind-chill values in single digits Sunday and Monday nights and mornings, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters are calling for ice accumulations in the area to range from 0.16 of an inch in Washington to 0.19 of an inch in Belhaven to 0.12 of an inch in Greenville through 7 p.m. Saturday.

John Pack, director of Beaufort County Emergency Services, said Friday, “The area of concern for this office is the continued increasing of ice accumulation. Snowfall will be the heaviest from west to east. … Finally, we start seeing all snow Saturday morning into the early afternoon.”

The county’s Emergency Operations Center operated with a limited staff Friday night, but will bring in more people if conditions warrant, according to Pack. “We don’t know what we’re going to get. … It’s one of those rare times when the western part of the county will be impacted more than the eastern part of the county,” he said.

With area roads expected to be adversely affected by the winter storm, the N.C. Highway Patrol asks people to stay at home and off roadways if possible. For people who must travel, the Highway Patrol urges them to be extra cautious while driving on ice- and snow-covered roads.

“We do want people to stay home and off the roads,” Gov. Roy Cooper said during a televised and online briefing Friday about the winter storm. For that reason, Cooper said, inauguration ceremonies scheduled for Saturday are cancelled.

“DOT needs clear roads. First-responders need clear roads,” Pack said. “We want people to stay off the roads. If someone abandons their car on a major road that needs clearing, DOT will have that car towed so it can clear that road.”

To check the status of road conditions, motorists are asked to go to the Department of Transportation’s website at  Officials ask the public to dial 911 and *HP for emergency purposes only.

Pack said his office requested additional handheld radios and additional radio frequencies from the state to provide emergency personnel another communications option should the weather result in power lines and telephone lines coming down and disrupting normal communications. The county has asked that some Forestry Service vehicles be kept in the county so they can be used to help evacuate stranded motorists, Pack said.

Patrol deputies with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office have been assigned to four-wheel-drive vehicles for use during the storm, Pack noted. If needed, warming centers at some fire departments and other locations along major roadways will be available for motorists who abandon their vehicles, he said.

If needed, shelters would be opened, with Washington High School designated as the main shelter, Pack said.

Electricity providers such as Washington Electric Utilities, Duke Energy and Tideland Electric Membership Corp. have crews on standby in case accumulations of ice and/or snow on trees and power lines cause power outages.

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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