When Winter Storm Remus dropped eight inches of snow on the Triangle last week, local public works crews worked around the clock to clear the roads as quickly as possible.
But who – if anyone – is responsible for the sidewalks?
If you walked around Chapel Hill or Carrboro after the snowstorm, you might have found some of the sidewalks remained snowy and icy long after the roads were clear – and the same was true for a number of apartment complex parking lots as well. Who’s in charge of those?
“Pursuant to our town code – it’s actually Section 7.6 – occupants of store buildings are responsible for clearing the sidewalk in front of their building,” says Carrboro mayor Lydia Lavelle.
The town code reads: “Every occupant of a store building, in front of which the sidewalk is paved with stone, brick, asphalt or cement, shall remove snow, ice or other similar obstruction from such sidewalk at the earliest possible time and as soon as the weather permits.”
In addition to businesses and store owners, Lavelle says residents are also encouraged to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes – and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens both say their towns have similar policies too.
“For the sidewalks that are in front of your property, the property owners are required – or (rather) requested to do it,” Stevens says. “That’s a policy that probably applies more to shop owners downtown than anything else.”
That’s standard procedure across the country – generally speaking, town crews are not responsible for clearing sidewalks; that responsibility typically falls on the citizens.
But the operative word there is “requested,” not “required.” All three towns have it written into their ordinances that residents and store owners are “requested” or “encouraged” to clear their sidewalks – Carrboro’s ordinance says they “shall” clear them – but neither Chapel Hill nor Carrboro nor Hillsborough appear to impose any legal sanctions on residents or businesses who fail to do so.
Lavelle says the reason for that is simple: the towns simply don’t have the authority.
“(When) this happened last winter…we talked at one point about whether we had the authority to require clearing – and we don’t,” she says. “Local authority, that kind of issue. So here we encourage it – but by authority we can’t require it, or (impose a) fine or charge.”
It all comes back, in other words, to the problem of “home rule”: by North Carolina law, towns and counties are only able to do what the state legislature allows them to do – and in this case, Lavelle says, the state has not given towns that power.
Compounding the problem, Lavelle says, is the fact that a lot of sidewalks in Carrboro and Chapel Hill simply don’t have storefronts or houses behind them at all – so there’s no one to clear them regardless.
“So in a town like Carrboro, where people are used to walking down Weaver Street between Town Hall and Weaver Street (Market), and then on down to the Hampton Inn and East Main Street project – that’s a lot of sidewalk that just doesn’t get cleared,” Lavelle says.
Facebook and Twitter were abuzz in the last two weeks with residents pointing out icy sidewalks and snow-covered driveways. Lavelle says the towns can “nudge” businesses and residents to clear them off, but beyond that there’s not much they can do.
Kleinschmidt, though, says businesses do have a strong incentive to keep their sidewalks and driveways clear – they may not be subject to fines, but they could be subject to civil suits.
“Private property owners…do risk liability when they don’t keep their walkways clear,” he says. “So it’s always particularly in a business’s best interest to do that – also just to make sure customers feel welcome to come in, when it’s open during bad weather.”
And Stevens says for the most part, people did fulfill their duty.
“Most folks do a pretty good job of trying to make the way clear,” he says. “It was several days with that really bitter cold weather, but we managed to get through.”
Kleinschmidt and Lavelle both say town officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro are looking into ways to make the response even better next time.
And in the meantime – while there may be a little snow left in the forecast this week – we can all take solace in the fact that last week’s snow will soon be only a memory.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/when-it-snows-who-clears-the-sidewalks/
With more than an inch of snow expected to fall, plus a quarter inch of ice, local road crews were out all night trying to keep the streets drivable.
In Hillsborough, Mayor Tom Stevens says all that work is done by a skeleton crew of just seven people.
“These guys are unsung heroes,” he says. “We have seven in the department, and they’re doing good work out there.”
Stevens says about half the crew was out during the nighttime hours, and the rest will be out today. They’ll be clearing the roads of as much snow as possible – but Stevens says it still won’t be ideal.
“There’s very little we can do about the ice, if it gets to be icy out there,” he says. “We just have to wait it out like everybody else.”
The winter storm warning is in effect until 9 am.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/hillsborough-just-seven-people-clear-roads/
With the threat of lingering ice on the roadways, local schools, businesses, and other agencies are announcing closures, cancellations and delays for Thursday morning.
See below for the full list in Orange, Durham and Chatham Counties – and keep checking this page throughout Wednesday night and Thursday morning for updates. No more precipitation is expected to fall in our area, though, and temperatures should reach the mid-40s by Thursday afternoon.
ORANGE COUNTY SCHOOLS: 2-hour delay
DURHAM PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 2-hour delay
BETHESDA CHRISTIAN ACADEMY: 2-hour delay
CARTER COMMUNITY SCHOOL: 2-hour delay
CRESSET CHRISTIAN ACADEMY: 1-hour delay
FELLOWSHIP BAPTIST ACADEMY OF DURHAM: Delayed until 10 am
GORMAN CHRISTIAN ACADEMY: Delayed until 9 am
IMMACULATA CATHOLIC SCHOOL: 2-hour delay
KESTREL HEIGHTS CHARTER SCHOOL: 2-hour delay
MAUREEN JOY CHARTER SCHOOL: 2-hour delay
MONTESSORI FARM SCHOOL: 1-hour delay
ORANGE CHARTER SCHOOL: 2-hour delay
PACE ACADEMY: 2-hour delay
SOUTHPOINT ACADEMY OF DURHAM: 2-hour delay
VOYAGER ACADEMY: 2-hour delay
WESTMINSTER KINDERGARTEN: Delayed until 10 am
With the threat of freezing rain in the forecast, Orange County is under a Winter Weather Advisory from 7:00 Tuesday evening through noon on Wednesday.
“Temps are going to drop through the evening, down around freezing by 9:00 or so,” says National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Ellis. “Initially that won’t cause a problem, but as precipitation starts…you’ll start to see the first impacts around midnight or so, (with) glazing on overpasses and bridges first…
“As precipitation increases after midnight, expect to start seeing travel impacts on the roadways (through) the morning commute.”
Ellis says it’s not yet clear how much precipitation is going to fall, but forecasters expect about a tenth of an inch of ice. Ellis describes the expected impact as “low to moderate” – road conditions will be treacherous, especially during the morning commute, but there shouldn’t be many power outages or downed trees.
“The worst case scenario would probably be two-tenths of an inch (of ice),” Ellis says. “The best case scenario is that the precipitation doesn’t make it as far north – and if we don’t get a lot, we could see very limited impacts with maybe just patchy ice on bridges and overpasses.”
Still, even a small amount of ice is enough to cause havoc on the roadways. “Last week in Sampson County…they had a very brief period of very light drizzle and rain, and they had 17 cars off the road within a couple hours,” Ellis says. “It doesn’t take much with the ice.”
So when will the ice go away? Ellis says it shouldn’t be long: the precipitation should end around 10:00 Wednesday morning, and temperatures will rise above freezing around then as well.
“Once the temperatures warm back up…you get cars traveling over the road (and) things heat up a little better,” Ellis says. “So we don’t anticipate impacts beyond Wednesday morning.”
Continue to check Chapelboro.com for updates on the weather, as well as any school and business closings, cancellations or delays.http://chapelboro.com/news/weather/expect-tenth-inch-ice-tuesday-night/
The possibility of inclement weather throughout our area has led to the state Department of Transportation going into overdrive to prepare the roadways.
Mark Mueller is the Communication Officer for the division of the DOT that oversees Orange County, and he says they have been watching the forecast to most efficiently prepare.
“It’s looking like .01 – .12” of accumulation,” he says. “The potential for down tree lines usually happens at .25 – .5” – so it does not look like that’s going to be happening.”
Mueller adds crews have been preparing all day to ensure the equipment will be up to the task for a long night’s work.
“We’re looking to have crews start around 7 o’clock [Tuesday] evening,” he says. “And we’re expecting 30 – 35 people on hand.”
Mueller says the lingering rain has caused a change of plans for how they typically prepare thoroughfares.
“They’re not planning, at this point, to put down any salt brine, since there’s rain in the forecast,” he says. “But they’re likely going to be putting down the hard salt.
“[It will be put down] at a minimum on the bridges, likely on the roads – depending on how the forecast comes.”
Mueller says the DOT is advising commuters to stay off the roadways, if at all possible, and to exercise caution if you are traveling.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/dot-preparing-long-night-inclement-weather-looms/
Winter has officially settled in across the Tar Heel state, and our area is no exception. After seeing heavy rain early Monday morning, temperatures have fallen and led to the possibility of some icing as we continue through the week.
The National Weather Service has issued alerts – including a Winter Weather Advisory for Orange County and a Winter Storm Watch for Durham and Wake Counties – that will go into effect late Tuesday and remain through mid-day Wednesday.
NWS Meteorologist Shawna Coakley says Tuesday we expect to have lingering drizzle, but the real problems may develop late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
“We’ll have temperatures right within a few degrees of freezing, and that brings with it a chance of freezing rain,” she says.
Coakley says we are not expected to see major accumulation, but “certainly you could get some glazing on surfaces. And you might see some difficulty with travel on roadways and walking on sidewalks.”
Coakley adds the chance of inclement weather will be rather widespread.
“We’re looking at the whole area for this, the entirety of central North Carolina,” she says.
The Wednesday morning commute may be a slippery one, if the variables of the forecast develop over the next 24 hours.
After that, Coakley says the temperatures will climb above freezing for the foreseeable future and the chance of rain will diminish to close out the week – taking any chance of inclement weather with it.http://chapelboro.com/news/weather/freezing-rain-may-lead-slippery-commute-wednesday/
The Triangle is expected to see extremely cold weather on Thursday morning, with temperatures as low as 10 and below-zero wind chills. As a result, some schools in the area will be closed or delayed:
ALAMANCE BURLINGTON SCHOOLS: 2-hour delay
CHAPEL HILL-CARRBORO CITY SCHOOLS: 2-hour delay
ORANGE COUNTY SCHOOLS: 2-hour delay
PACE ACADEMY: 2-hour delay
We’ll continue to update this website with additional information.
Temperatures are transitioning from rather mild to well below normal. National Weather Service Meteorologist Shawna Coakley says this cold weather will stick around for a few days.
“We’re going to have temperatures quite a bit below normal through the weekend,” she says. “Thursday we’re expecting the coldest day so far, probably struggling to get out of the upper-20’s.”
Coakley says there are dangerous situations that can develop with the frigid temperatures.
“We’re not expecting precipitation over that time period, but there is the possibility we could see some wind chill issues,” she says. “Lows Wednesday night will be into the teens, possibly nearing single digits.”
Last year, “Polar Vortex” seemed to be everyone’s catchphrase; Coakley says that, while it’s fun to say, the polar vortex is not an anomaly.
“The polar vortex is always there,” she says. “We frequently get pieces that break off and can influence our weather.”
Even though we may not see any snow or ice associated with this system, Coakley says it is still important to take precautions if you have to venture into the cold weather.
“The best thing to do is stay indoors as much as possible,” she says. “[If you are outside] cover any exposed skin and try to stay out of the wind because that can lead to problems with frostbite or hypothermia.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of hypothermia – shivering, dizziness, fatigue, and shallow breathing – call 911 immediately.
Chapel Hill town officials are taking the opportunity to remind residents to have your heating systems checked. This time of year, residents are also reminded to not bring any outdoor heating devices – including grills or outdoor propane heaters – inside because there is an increased risk of setting fire to your home.
Leaders are also reminding residents to leave your water on a slow drip to reduce chances of a burst pipe, in cases where pipes are affixed to an outdoor wall and you do not have alternate ways to insulate the pipe.
Also, pets should either have an adequate structure with proper insulation or should be brought inside to ensure their safety.http://chapelboro.com/news/weather/frigid-weather-nearing/
The year 2015 is finally upon us – but before saying goodbye to 2014, the WCHL news team took a look back at the year that was in our local community.
In a year dominated by ice storms, high-profile elections, serious debates over policing and public safety and same-sex marriage, and still more scandal at UNC, what were the top news stories that shaped the year 2014 in Chapel Hill? And who were the top newsmakers?
As we do every year, WCHL’s news team compiled a list of the top 10 news stories, and the top 10 newsmakers, here in Orange County. Does your list match ours?
Listen to our 2014 Year In Review special!
Part 1: #10, #9, #8
Part 2: #7, #6, #5 (and the year in sports)
Part 3: Aaron Keck chats with Akiva Fox and Allison Driskill about the top stories of 2014 as viewed on Chapelboro.com.
Part 4: #4, #3, and #2
Part 5: #1
News Story: Rooftop Incident At Hampton Inn
Newsmaker: Rita Balaban
Our #10 news story of the year took place on Tuesday, September 30, when Carrboro police got a call that a man was on the roof of the Hampton Inn on Main Street, threatening to jump. What followed was an 18-hour standoff, during which Chapel Hill and Carrboro police shut down traffic downtown so trained negotiators could talk the man off the roof – which they did, successfully, the following morning.
Our #10 newsmaker is UNC economics professor Rita Balaban, the professor who unmasked three streakers who dashed through her classroom in October. Coincidentally, she was also the professor of the class that police entered in November to arrest the student who’d posted a bomb threat in the Pit on social media.
News Story: UNC’s Response To Ebola Crisis
Newsmaker: Francis Henry
Thousands in West Africa died during the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. Other than a handful of cases, the disease didn’t make it to the U.S., but in Chapel Hill, the work of UNC researchers was pivotal in the fight against the disease overseas.
Meanwhile, the fate of Hillsborough’s beloved, now-dilapidated Colonial Inn was a hot topic all year. Francis Henry, the building’s current owner, petitioned the town for permission to tear the historic building down, but was denied.
News Story: Teacher Pay
Newsmaker: Robert Campbell
North Carolina public school teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation – a fact that sparked an outcry in 2014. That outcry was so loud that state legislators actually responded to it, passing a sizable pay increase, but that didn’t quell the controversy: those raises were minimal at best for experienced teachers.
2014 was a banner year for Reverend Robert Campbell, whose tireless work on behalf of the Rogers Road community came to fruition at year’s end. Orange County municipalities finally came together on a remediation plan to extend water and sewer service to the neighborhood, and a new community center opened in the fall.
News story: Development in Chapel Hill
Newsmaker: Roger Perry
Our #7 news story and our #7 newsmaker go hand in hand: 2014 saw big debates about new developments in Chapel Hill, primarily at Obey Creek and the Ephesus/Fordham district. Developer Roger Perry was at the center of both discussions: his East West Partners is both the lead developer at Obey Creek and the developer behind the first major proposal at Ephesus/Fordham.
Wrapped up with development is the ongoing discussion about affordable housing – which is getting harder and harder to find. Chapel Hill teamed up with DHIC for a major affordable housing project in Ephesus/Fordham, but that’s on hold because clerical errors in DHIC’s funding application led to its rejection.
News story: Ferguson and Police Militarization
Newsmaker: Charles Blackwood
The events in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked several major debates locally: from protests over the non-indictment of the officer who killed Michael Brown (as well as the officer who killed Eric Garner) to a debate about perceived police militarization, sparked by the heavily-armed police response to protestors in Ferguson.
This year’s local elections were mostly a low-key affair, but the sheriff’s race was an exception, as six candidates vied to replace longtime sheriff Lindy Pendergrass. Charles Blackwood emerged victorious, defeating David Caldwell in a summer runoff.
News story: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
Newsmaker(s): Mark Kleinschmidt and Lydia Lavelle
Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and UNC were all honored as “Bicycle Friendly” by the League of American Bicyclists, but our community was hit by a series of incidents involving bikers and pedestrians – most notably the tragic death of bicyclist Pamela Lane in October, in a collision with a vehicle on MLK.
It was a busy year all around for Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, but perhaps most notable was their respective contributions to the fight for same-sex marriage in North Carolina. Kleinschmidt was an attorney on the case that saw the state’s ban struck down; Lavelle and her partner Alicia Stemper were the first same-sex couple to apply for, and receive, a marriage license in Orange County.
News story: Ice Storm
Newsmaker: Rashad McCants
We won’t soon forget the February ice storm that shut down Chapel Hill and Carrboro for days, left motorists stuck on 15/501 and other roads for hours, and forced UNC to call off the Duke/Carolina basketball game scheduled for that evening. (Carolina won the rescheduled game, when it was finally played.)
Former UNC basketball star Rashad McCants made waves in the summer when he appeared on ESPN to declare not only that he’d taken phony classes and had tutors write his papers at UNC, but also that his coaches – including Roy Williams – knew all about it.
News story: Murder of Feng Liu
Newsmaker(s): Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan
Chapel Hill and the UNC community were shocked when pharmacy professor Feng Liu was attacked and killed on July 23, while taking a walk near campus in the middle of the afternoon. Two men were arrested for his murder the following day.
Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis waged a hard-fought (and extremely expensive) battle all year for a seat in the U.S. Senate. State House Speaker Tillis won, riding a Republican wave in spite of the unpopularity of the General Assembly.
News story: Same-Sex Marriage Legalized
Newsmaker: Carol Folt
In May, Mark Chilton unseated incumbent Deborah Brooks in the race for Orange County Register of Deeds, at least partly because he said he’d be willing to defy the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. As it turned out, though, that wouldn’t be necessary: a district court judge struck down that ban in October, and it was Brooks (not yet out of office) who issued Orange County’s first same-sex marriage license.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt was at the center of every major debate on campus. The academic/athletic scandal was the most prominent, of course, but there were also plenty of major accomplishments as well.
News story: The Wainstein Report
Newsmaker: Mary Willingham
Commissioned in February and delivered in October, Kenneth Wainstein’s 131-page report on academic irregularities at UNC shocked observers who thought they’d heard it all – shedding light on a “scheme” of fraudulent classes that went unchecked for nearly two decades.
Former UNC academic advisor Mary Willingham sparked massive debate when she appeared on CNN in January to blow the whistle on UNC admissions – arguing that a sizable percentage of UNC football and basketball players couldn’t read above an eighth-grade level.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/wchls-2014-year-review/
A major storm system is likely to hit the Triangle tonight, with meteorologists predicting heavy rain, heavy wind, and maybe even an isolated tornado.
National Weather Service meteorologist Katie Dedeaux says the heaviest rain will come in the late evening and overnight hours – and because it’s a slow-moving storm, there’s a greater likelihood of flooding as the rain will linger longer.
Dedeaux says the area will see at least an inch of rain, with some areas seeing as much as two inches. And the danger is heightened, she says, because the storm is moving through at night. “It’s one of the most dangerous times to have any severe weather,” she says, “because people are in bed and less aware of what’s going on.”
Dedeaux spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL Tuesday afternoon.
Dedeaux says the storm should move out of the area sometime around noon on Wednesday, with nice weather expected for the weekend.http://chapelboro.com/news/weather/storm-tonight-will-drop-heavy-rain-tornado-possible/