Despite A Heads Up, Storm Paralyzes North Carolina

fromWUNC

The winter storm that's moving across the Southeast has forced schools and businesses to close. Ice brought down power lines — forcing hundreds of thousands of people to lose power in Alabama, Georgia and in North and South Carolina. In Raleigh, N.C., motorists got trapped on the roads as the storm moved in quicker than expected.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning. The South is digging out from another severe winter storm. Hundreds of thousands of people are without power this morning. Some places in Georgia got a half-foot of snow; almost a foot of snow fell in New Bern, N.C.; and in Raleigh, a sudden burst of snow caught some people off guard, even though meteorologists had warned of the threat for days.

Gurnal Scott, of North Carolina Public Radio, reports.

GURNAL SCOTT, BYLINE: Not long after the snow began to fall in North Carolina, crews were trying to clean it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SNOWPLOW)

SCOTT: This snowplow was in a Raleigh neighborhood, clearing streets. North Carolina's governor, Pat McCrory, had already declared a state of emergency and warned residents to be vigilant.

GOV. PAT MCCRORY: Don't put your stupid hat on at this point in time. Protect yourself, protect your family, protect your neighbors. Let's protect each other during this next 48 hours.

SCOTT: Aside from the loss of power for thousands of residents, one of the biggest concerns were the roads. State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said they were aggressive treating the streets before and during the snowstorm.

TONY TATA: Two-point-seven million gallons of brine have been used just for this event alone. And about 1,500 tons of salt have been put down in preparation for this event, as well.

SCOTT: But the snow fell so heavily at times in Raleigh, the interstates clogged with cars that had nowhere to go. Just like what happened in Birmingham and Atlanta during a storm two weeks ago, some people abandoned their cars and started walking. Raleigh resident Alex Thweatt traversed the snow to pick up his wife and daughter.

ALEX THWEAAT: What I saw was that everybody moved and adjusted to the storm at the same time. Like, normally, you get a situation where people go out at seven in the morning, eight in the morning, nine or whatever. Everybody got to work in the morning, and then everybody, at the same time, exited.

MCCRORY: Others ventured outside last night to a local drugstore for some last-minute supplies, only to find locked doors.

TONY PUGLIESI: I think they are closed. Aw, hell. What the hell they got the lights on for?

SCOTT: Tony Pugliesi isn't so frustrated about the snow. He lives in North Carolina's capital, but his roots are in New Jersey, where he's seen a snowfall or two.

PUGLIESI: This stuff really is not that bad. I mean, it's not that slippery. When the temperature drops and it starts melting, that's when it's going to get bad.

SCOTT: Residents will wake up this morning to snow-covered roads and a layer of ice. State officials are urging people - if they don't have to go out - to spend another day indoors. Colonel William Grey is commander of the North Carolina Highway Patrol. He expects to be busy today.

COL. WILLIAM GREY: We will have all available troopers on the road. We'll be increasing high-density traffic enforcement and visibility as we move forward, looking for the disabled motorist, the stranded motorist and also those who have been involved in collisions.

MCCRORY: Tony Pugliesi, the New Jersey native, chalks up yesterday's gridlock to inexperience. He says there just haven't been many significant snowstorms in Raleigh in the past few years, and that coating of ice didn't help, either.

PUGLIESI: No, you can't drive on ice, even in New Jersey.

(LAUGHTER)

SCOTT: Today won't be any better. The forecast is for more snow and freezing rain.

For NPR News, I'm Gurnal Scott in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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