Officials Warn of Hazardous Road Conditions as Storm Dumps Snow, Ice on US Mid-Atlantic, Southeast
© AP Photo / Kathy KmonicekJim Long uses his snow blower to clear a pile of snow from his driveway during a winter storm, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022 in Morganton, N.C. A coat of ice underneath snow-covered roads made it hard to walk and clear driveways
© AP Photo / Kathy Kmonicek
Several states in the US mid-Atlantic and southeastern regions are again dealing with hazardous winter weather, subzero temperatures, and major travel disruptions after the area was pounded by vicious snow and ice storms on Friday.
While most state- and locally-issued winter weather alerts expired by Saturday afternoon, those in the hardest-affected areas are being advised to shelter in their homes, as several portions of Interstates 85 and 95 remain treacherous following a solidification of the freezing rain.
Freezing rain poses a particular threat to roadways as liquid droplets freeze upon contact with surfaces. Sleet occurs when the droplets freeze after encountering a dense layer of freezing air near the surface.
Parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia were among the hardest hit by the wintry mix of snow, sleet, and/or freezing rain. Issues associated with the storm have been compounded by below-freezing temperatures and environments with sub-zero wind chills capable of causing frostbite if one's skin is exposed for as short as 30 minutes.
"We've suddenly seen an uptick in citizens out on the roadway, we're also seeing a spike in crashes," tweeted the Fire Department of Huntsville, North Carolina, on Friday afternoon. "Roads are icy. Please give the sun time to work. Stay off the roadways."
© AP Photo / Tom CopelandMorehead City firefighters work to clean up wreck that was caused by ice covered roads after a winter storm hit North Carolina in Morehead City, N.C. on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
Morehead City firefighters work to clean up wreck that was caused by ice covered roads after a winter storm hit North Carolina in Morehead City, N.C. on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
© AP Photo / Tom Copeland
Earlier this month, Virginia endured a major highway closure that impacted a 50-mile stretch of I-95 and, in some cases, stranded drivers for some 24 hours. Soon after, transportation officials revealed that responding crews were faced with downed power lines, accidents involving semi-trucks, and trees that fell due to the stress of snow and ice.
A total of three people died at the scene, and another man was taken to a hospital. Many motorists caught in traffic were forced to periodically endure below-freezing temperatures in an attempt to conserve fuel.
Glenn Youngkin, Virginia's new governor, declared a state of emergency earlier this week "to aid in the response to the impending winter weather" and provide resources to address high accumulations of snow, statewide transportation issues, and potential power outages.
Similar emergency orders were preemptively issued by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, who warned of associated power outages—particularly for residents in the state's southeastern counties.
"That's where a quarter-inch or more of ice is expected on trees and power lines, and that's a recipe for power outages, unfortunately," the North Carolina Governor said on Thursday.
School closures were also announced in an effort to minimize the number of those on the roads.
© AP Photo / Tom CopelandMike Raniolo with MasTec a contractor for Duke Power breaks ice on power lines after a winter storm hit North Carolina in Atlantic Beach, N.C. on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022
Mike Raniolo with MasTec a contractor for Duke Power breaks ice on power lines after a winter storm hit North Carolina in Atlantic Beach, N.C. on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022
© AP Photo / Tom Copeland
"It's already below freezing, it's already pure freezing rain, so it looks like this is a textbook event to overperform in terms of the ice accumulation," said Accuweather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer, reporting from North Carolina on Friday.
Snowfall amounted to around 6 inches (15 centimeters) in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.
Operations at Raleigh-Durham International (RDU) Airport have been significantly impacted by the winter downpour, which coated the international airport's runways with ice and likely contributed to a Delta Air Line aircraft sliding accident on Friday.
The incoming aircraft's nose gear briefly exited the taxiway around 9 p.m. local time, according to the airport. RDU claimed the plane ultimately "landed safely and rolled into the mud while taxiing."
"We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience," said Delta, noting that the 13-person flight from Washington, DC, was operated by Endeavor Air, a regional carrier.
At least 70 flight cancellations have occurred at the North Carolina airport since Friday.
No injuries have been reported.