LUMBERTON — Roads in Robeson County were brined and grocery store shelves cleared Friday in anticipation of dangerous freezing rain that is expected to hit Saturday evening through Sunday afternoon.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch at 3:06 p.m. Friday that will remain in effect until 1 p.m. Sunday.
Meteorologists say small accumulations of freezing rain are possible and ice accumulations of a tenth of an inch to a quarter of an inch are possible. The best chance for ice accumulation will exist west of Interstate-95, according to the National Weather Service.
“Small accumulations of freezing rain are possible on elevated surfaces such as bridges and overpasses, which could create hazardous travel conditions,” the National Weather Service said.
North Carolina Department of Transportation maintenance crews and contractors applied 13,000 gallons of brine to Robeson County roads Thursday and finished brining Friday before the storm hit.
Brine, an economical mixture of salt and water, lowers freezing temperatures on the roadway and helps prevent the formation of ice on the roads.
NCDOT officials have urged motorists to get any food or other supplies they may need as travel could be dangerous during the storm.
“Our crews and contractors are doing everything in their power to prepare for this storm and we ask the people of North Carolina to prepare as well,” said J. Eric Boyette, Secretary of State for the Transport. “Be sure to plan ahead as this storm could impact travel in the state.”
Other teams are preparing chainsaws and other tools that will remove all the downed trees.
After pre-treating the roads, crews will rest, then replace the brining equipment with the snow removal equipment to clear the roads of snow and ice for post-storm response.
“After the storm passes, please stay home and off the roads,” said NCDOT chief operating officer Beau Memory. “NCDOT and contractor crews will do their best to clear the roads as quickly as possible, but we ask everyone to stay safe and remain patient.”
As in many industries nationwide, NCDOT staff and its contractor teams have been impacted by labor shortages and response times are unlikely to be as fast as in the past.
The NCDOT and State Highway Patrol plan to tow all abandoned or disabled vehicles Saturday through Monday, as these could be hazardous to rescuers and clearance crews.
The Red Cross is urging residents to stay safe and warm by following basic safety and travel advice.
“The best way to stay safe in the winter is to prepare your home, your family and your pets before the temperatures drop and the snow and ice start to fall,” said Barry Porter, regional CEO of the American Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina. “The Red Cross encourages families to be careful when heating their homes with radiators, to dress in layers before going out and to bring pets indoors.”
HEATING YOUR HOME SAFELY
Heat sources such as radiators, fireplaces, or wood and coal stoves can pose a fire hazard, and fatal fires peak in the early morning when most people are asleep. Since December 1, Red Cross volunteers in eastern North Carolina have responded to 159 house fires and assisted 433 people who lost their homes to fires. That’s nearly four families, on average, every night in 53 counties.
Home heating is the second leading cause of fires in the United States.
All radiators need space. Keep children, pets and objects that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, rugs and carpets) at least three feet from heating equipment.
If you must use a space heater, place it on a flat, hard, nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile flooring), not on rugs, carpeting, or near bedding or curtains. Plug power cords directly into outlets, never into an extension cord.
Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended and use a glass or metal spark screen to keep the fire and embers inside the fireplace.
Never use a stove, oven, charcoal or gas grill to heat your home.
Turn off space heaters whenever you leave the room or go to sleep.
STAY SAFE OUTSIDE
If you have to go out, protect yourself from the hazards of winter storms:
Wear layered clothing, mittens or gloves and a hat. Outerwear should be tightly woven and water repellent. Mittens or gloves and a hat will prevent loss of body heat.
Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from very cold air. Avoid deep breathing; minimize conversations.
Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
Keep dry. Change wet clothes frequently to prevent loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses much of its insulating value and quickly wicks heat away from the body.
Stretch before going out. If you’re going out to shovel snow, do some stretching exercises to warm up your body. This will reduce your risk of muscle injury.
Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking in deep snow. Cold pressure and hard work can cause a heart attack. Sweating can lead to chills and hypothermia.
Walk carefully on snowy and icy sidewalks. Slips and falls are common in winter, resulting in painful and sometimes disabling injuries.
If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transport if possible. About 70% of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles
WINTER DRIVING SAFETY
Stay off the road if possible in bad weather. If you must drive in the winter, follow these tips:
Keep in your vehicle:
A windshield scraper and a small broom. A small bag of sand to generate traction under the wheels and a set of snow chains or traction mats. Matches in a waterproof container. A brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to attach to the antenna
An emergency kit, including warm clothes.
Keep your vehicle’s gas tank full so you can leave immediately in an emergency and prevent the fuel line from freezing.
Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.
Do not follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roads.
Do not use cruise control when driving in winter.
Do not pass snowplows.
Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.
If you get stuck:
Stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to seek help unless help is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). You can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.
Display a trouble sign to indicate that you need help. Hang a brightly colored (preferably red) rag over the radio antenna and lift the hood once the snow has stopped falling.
Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Run the engine for about 10 minutes every hour (or five minutes every half hour). Running the engine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and saves fuel. Use the heater while the engine is running. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and open a leeward window slightly for ventilation.
Leave the dome light on when the engine is running so that you can be seen.