Snowfall projection comes up short

Published 8:35 pm Thursday, January 22, 2009

There’s an old saying that if you don’t like the weather in northeastern North Carolina, give it an hour or two, it will change.

Such was the case on Tuesday.

A projected 4-to-6 inch snowfall never took shape as a pocket of dry air in the lower levels of the atmosphere forced the brunt of the moisture further south than anticipated, leaving the majority of the Roanoke-Chowan area void of a major weather event.

Central and southern portions of Bertie County saw the heaviest blanket of snow, but even there the Monday forecast made by National Weather Service officials fell short of six-inch projection.

Bertie County Schools remained closed on Wednesday. Classes may resume today (Thursday). Hertford County Schools were already on a scheduled early-winter break. Those students returned to class today.

Meanwhile, another expectation – icy roads – never fully materialized.

“For a snow event, things went better than anyone could possibly have thought,” said First Sgt. Todd Lane of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol’s Troop A, District II office in Ahoskie. “We didn’t have any more motor vehicle accidents than would be recorded on a normal day.”

Lane praised the North Carolina Department of Transportation for taking preventive measures before the snow arrived to ensure the local roadways were safe.

“They pre-treated the roads with some sort of salt solution and it worked well,” Lane noted. “DOT did an outstanding job.”

Win Bridgers, District Engineer with the DOT’s Division 1 office in Ahoskie, said crews pre-treated the area’s major highways as well as heavily traveled secondary roads and traditional “trouble spots” (bad curves, shaded areas, etc.) on Monday.

“What we used is a salt brine solution, a liquid that is sprayed directly onto the road surface,” Bridgers confirmed. “It leaves a salt residue on the road which prevents snow and ice from bonding to the surface.”

Bridgers said this type of salt brine treatment is used in other areas of the state that receive snow on a normal basis. He added that Division I (which covers the state’s northeastern counties) was just outfitted this past summer with the salt brine system.

A few icy spots remained on the rural back roads, but Wednesday’s abundant sunshine helped to melt those areas.

Lane did report a multi-car accident that occurred late Tuesday afternoon on the Bertie County side of the Roanoke River bridge at Williamston. He said there were no major injuries.

“Another key was that the public heeded the warnings to stay off the roads on Tuesday,” Lane concluded. “There wasn’t a lot of traffic, not a lot of sight-seers out on the roads.”