Freezing rain is falling in areas north of Interstate 85, while areas south are seeing heavy rain and even hearing some thunder.
Some people might look out the window this morning and think it’s just a typical rain event, but that evaluation may be premature.
“This is a slow-moving event. So in our fast-paced lives when we can have a meal delivered from our phone to our door in less than an hour, everybody thinks everything should happen right now. But mother nature has her own timeline,” ABC11 Meteorologist Don “Big Weather” Schwenneker said. “That’s why these Winter Storm Warnings go from now until tomorrow morning. It is going to take a while. If you’re looking outside and going, ‘It’s not that bad.’ This is a several hour event. It will take a while for that ice to build up, but I think by 9-10 a.m., especially in those northern counties, we’ll see that icing.”
The Winter Storm Warnings are in effect for counties along Interstate 85 and north. This advisory lasts until Friday at 7 a.m., and it means that these areas could see between .25 and .5 inches of ice accumulation.
For context, less than .25 inches of ice can coat tree limbs and power lines, as well as causing some slick spots on raises surfaces. With more than .25 inches of ice accumulation, tree limbs begin to sag and break and roads become icy. That is when power outages tend to become widespread.
A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for Chatham, Franklin, Halifax, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Nash, Stanly and Wake counties until 7 a.m. Friday. These counties could see less than .25 inches of ice accumulation.
As of 6 a.m. freezing rain had been reported as far south as Wake County. Ice accumulation remained at a minimum, but that is a slow process that takes hours to develop.
Plus, ice is not the only potential problem with this storm.
A Flash Flood Watch is in effect for all counties south or east of Wake County from 10 a.m. today through 7 a.m. Friday. Between 1-2 inches of rain is expected to fall in these areas. That rain will be falling on already saturated ground, which is a recipe for flooding.
The rain will last until around 12 p.m. Thursday. It will then likely taper off for the early afternoon and fire back up late afternoon into Friday.
Estimated power outages
Duke Energy is projecting that the hazardous wintry precipitation and high-winds could cause nearly 1 million power outages – some lasting several days – beginning Thursday in North Carolina and South Carolina, based on the storm’s current forecasted track.
Duke Energy said it has thousands of employees supporting the company’s response, including 5,400 line technicians and vegetation workers. More than 1,300 of those workers are from the company’s Midwest and Florida service areas and from other companies providing assistance.
Governor Cooper to declare state of emergency due to winter weather
“This forecast for icy weather is a real threat for widespread power outages,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “People need to be ready to stay home and be prepared to lose power for a while, especially in the northern, western and Piedmont counties.”
The governor said he will issue an executive order in advance of the inclement weather, declaring a state of emergency and allowing for transportation waivers permitting utility companies to bring repair crews from out of state and get faster access to communities that have lost power. The governor also authorized the activation of 40 National Guard personnel to support fallen tree and debris removal.
Officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services are cautioning people not to use gasoline-powered generators or tools, outdoor grills and camp stoves in enclosed spaces. These devices should be used outside only and at least 20 feet away from windows, doors and air vents to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
To stay safe:
- Do not use gasoline-powered tools, generators or engines in enclosed or even partially enclosed spaces. Use them outdoors, at least 20 feet from doors, windows and air vents.
- Do not use charcoal grills or propane stoves indoors, even in a fireplace.
- Never use the stove or other gas appliances to heat your home.
- Do not idle your car, truck or other vehicle in the garage, even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance. If used correctly, these detectors can save lives by alerting people to increasing levels of carbon monoxide in the home.
- Keep rooms well ventilated.
Ice is on the way: Tips for driving in winter weather
Due to anticipated weather, Wake County Public Schools announced it has canceled all of its in-person instruction and will transition to remote learning on Thursday, Feb. 18.
Durham Public Schools facilities will also be closed and remote learning, meal services and in-person events will be canceled on Thursday.
School-based virtual events will be canceled as well due to the possibility of power outages. The day will be a teacher workday and there will be no scheduled online classes. DPS will use accumulated instructional hours to make up the day.
UNC-Chapel Hill has canceled all classes, both in-person and remote classes, on Thursday.
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