Monday, February 27, 2017
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Most primary roads, a fifth of secondary roads, are cleared

N.C. Department of Transportation crews cleared 75 percent of interstate and primary routes in the division that includes Henderson County although icy spots remained. Through Saturday afternoon, the crews had cleared 20 percent of secondary roads. Meanwhile, state officials issued strong warnings about black ice after overnight lows that are forecast to fall into the single digits.

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"Driving conditions are still hazardous,” Gov. Roy Cooper said during an update on the winter storm Helena on Saturday afternoon. “Please stay off the roads or you may put yourself, your family, first responders or others at risk.”

Slush and moisture will re-freeze as a result of the rapidly falling temperatures, which will create black ice and other treacherous driving conditions.

State Highway Patrol troopers have responded to nearly 1,500 calls for service and more than 700 vehicle collisions since midnight, up from the 460 calls for service and 260 wrecks reported this morning, the state Emergency Response Team reported. Those mostly involve property damage and no fatalities.

Cooper also encouraged North Carolinians “to stay home and stay warm” due the wind chill that is expected to be between minus-5 and minus-15 degrees late Saturday night and early Sunday morning in western portions of the state. During the same time period, the wind chill in other parts of the state is forecasted to be between 0 and 5 degrees.

As of 4:30 p.m., approximately 9,274 households were without power, down from 25,000 customers earlier today.

Emergency Management, the State Highway Patrol and the North Carolina National Guard are currently operating a search and rescue mission to assist local first responders in locating two lost hikers in Haywood County.

An NCDOT official for Division 14 repeated the black ice warning.

“Although we’ve made a lot of progress on removing snow and ice from the roads, we encourage people to stay off the roads because conditions will worsen as temperatures drop,” Division 14 maintenance engineer Ralph Cannady said. “If you must travel, slow down and be aware of black ice.”

In the greater Asheville area, Division 13 — Buncombe, Burke, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Rutherford and Yancey counties — Interstate 40 and I-26 were 90 percent clear as of 2 p.m. In addition, the primary roads were 50 percent clear with 15 percent of secondary roads earning that status. Across those seven counties, crews dispensed 2,495 tons of sand as well as 4,750 tons of a salt and sand mixture.

The northern mountains of Division 11 — Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yadkin counties — had 100 percent of its primary routes scraped by Saturday afternoon. Nearly 65 percent of secondary and 21 percent of unpaved roads were scraped. Early estimates predict that 95 percent of primary, 80 percent of secondary paved and 20 percent of unpaved roads in the division will be clear by Sunday afternoon.

Across the state, NCDOT crews applied nearly 3 million gallons of salt brine on major routes in advance of the storm. More than 2,500 NCDOT employees and 1,600 NCDOT vehicles are part of the effort to plow and de-ice roads. These efforts will be halted Saturday evening and resume Sunday when temperatures rise. In temperatures below 20 degrees, chemical treatments on roads become ineffective. NCDOT crews have laid sand and staging equipment in areas with historical issues.

If you must travel, the North Carolina Highway Patrol recommends following these safety tips:

— Reduce your speed. Driving at the regular speed limit will reduce your ability to control the car if you begin to slide.
— Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles. Bridges and overpasses accumulate ice first. Approach them with extreme caution and do not apply your brakes while on the bridge.
— If you do begin to slide, take your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not apply the brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car.
— Those using gas-powered generators and other fuel-burning appliances should not run them indoors or in other areas with poor ventilation because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Real-time weather and road conditions and shelter openings, as well as winter safety tips, can be found on the free ReadyNC mobile app or online at www.readync.org website.