ORANGE COUNTY – About six inches of snow fell on Orange County on Wednesday, causing massive traffic jams across the area – and the unprecedented cancellation of the scheduled UNC-Duke basketball game.
And it’s nowhere near over: the snow has turned into sleet and freezing rain in much of the Triangle, and National Weather Service meteorologist Nick Petro says he expects “a quarter to a half an inch” of ice accumulation as well.
That much accumulation has the potential to cause power outages, as ice weighs down branches and power lines. Tens of thousands of Duke Energy Progress customers lost power on Wednesday in southeastern North Carolina.
And Petro says there will be more snow as well: “The precipitation type should go back to snow during the day (Thursday); one to three inches of additional snow may fall.”
UNC and Duke have cancelled classes all day Thursday, as have the area’s school districts (CHCCS, Orange, Durham, and Chatham).
Traffic jams across the Triangle were widespread and massive, as drivers reported taking hours and hours to travel distances that usually only take a few minutes – and some drivers gave up altogether, abandoned their vehicles and walked. The UNC-Duke basketball game was cancelled after the charter bus scheduled to bring the Duke team to the Smith Center couldn’t even get to Duke’s campus to pick up the players.
The precipitation is expected to end on Thursday afternoon – the Winter Storm Warning in effect for the Triangle expires Thursday afternoon at 6:00 – but Petro says it’ll take even longer for the area to return to normal.
“Impacts are going to be long-lasting because it’s going to take a while to get rid of all this ice,” he says. “Temperatures are going to stay cold (Thursday) night, struggling into the mid- to upper 30s even on Friday. So it’s going to take a while to get this all cleaned up.”