Rare blast of snow, ice takes aim at Southeast US coast
NORFOLK, Va. — Salt spreader trucks crisscrossed coastal roads as courthouses and schools closed Friday to prepare for a snow and ice storm expected to snarl parts of the Carolinas and Virginia unaccustomed to winter precipitation.
Authorities along a stretch of the North and South Carolina coast warned that ice accumulation could cause power major power outages, while areas northeast of there stretching into Virginia could see several inches of snow. School districts in the pathway canceled class or went to remote learning, while two large coastal military bases modified operations. Fifty-seven courthouses from the central part of North Carolina to the coast closed for modified operations due to the forecast.
Transportation officials in the southeast corner of Virginia said Friday morning that crews had been working overnight to treat the roads, but warned people to stay off of them.
“Road temps are below freezing on all roads in the area, which means high potential for slick spots, black ice and slushy conditions. Stay home where it’s safe and warm, unless travel is unavoidable,” the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Hampton Roads District said in a tweet.
Forecasters predict four to six inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of snow in the northeastern corner of North Carolina and Virginia’s Hampton Roads region, which includes Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
“Untreated roads will be slick, and treated roads will probably get slick overnight,” said Mike Montefusco, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia. He advised motorists to delay travel until later in the weekend.
Chris Stokes, 41, a construction worker who lives in Norfolk, stocked up at a Harris Teeter grocery store Friday morning, rounding out his provisions with bottled water, eggs, chicken, wine and other items.
“I already had a couple of things, but now they’re making it seem like it’s gonna be a lot worse,” Stokes said.
School was canceled for his kids. His construction jobs were on hold. Stokes’ plan was to put some chicken in the slow cooker and assemble some toys that his kids got for Christmas.
“I bought some salt, so I’ll sprinkle that outside the walkway and just kind of brace for it,” Stokes said.
“Luckily, I got a 4-wheel drive (pickup truck),” he added. “So, if anything happens I’m not stuck for real. I can probably make it to where I need to go. But I’m sure nothing will be open.”
In North Carolina, the heaviest amounts of ice will likely develop near New Bern, where US Routes 17 and 70 cross, said Ryan Ellis, the science and operations officer for the National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City.
“We could see up to a half an inch of ice there, and with that amount you’re really starting to get into concerns about power outages,” Ellis said. Ice will be a concern along the coast from Jacksonville, North Carolina, to the northeastern corner of South Carolina.
The governors in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia each declared states of emergency ahead of the storm. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said 114 National Guard troops were staging and ready to move to affected areas, with extended power outages from ice accumulation a concern
In South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster also declared a state of emergency, schools and government offices around Charleston and other places that don’t see much frozen precipitation closed or announced shortened hours Friday. Freezing rain, sleet and snow were expected to start spreading across the state around sunrise. And utilities in the northeastern part of the state warned major power outages were possible.
The U.S. Navy is requiring only mission-essential personnel to report to its installations along Virginia’s coast, including the world’s largest Navy base in Norfolk. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Air Station New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina, also announced that non-essential employees won’t be required to report to work Friday.
In northeastern North Carolina, Perquimans County school officials noted the rarity of snow in the area in announcing schools would be closed on Friday. Forecasters said the area could see several inches of snow.
“It is not often that we get to experience snow in Northeastern NC and we hope this will be a day that you can enjoy with your children,” the school district’s website said. “Stay safe, stay warm, and enjoy the snow!”
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