RALEIGH — North Carolinians hadn’t dug out from the first part of a winter storm before the system began dumping more snow Thursday, leaving people wondering when would they be able to retrieve the cars they abandoned by the side of the road the day before.
Some, such as Gilda Kloth, got home through the kindness of strangers. Kloth, 31 of Raleigh, had started walking home after abandoning her car Wednesday evening. A man trying a truck picked up her and couple of other walkers, then dropped them off near their homes.
“My one-hour walk became 10 minutes or 20 minutes,” said Kloth, who works about 25 miles away in Youngsville and whose trek home took about four hours. “I got home and thought, ‘I’m here; I can’t believe it.’”
The rapid accumulation of snow on Wednesday caught people off guard even though the storm was forecast. The scenes of abandoned cars recalled a 2005 storm when a thin layer of ice on untreated roads in Raleigh caused hours-long commutes.
As of Thursday afternoon, officials were attributing three deaths to the storm, including a Pender County man who died Wednesday when a tree limb broke off an ice-covered tree and struck him outside his home in a mobile home park in Rocky Point. Two people also died in traffic accidents in Moore and Chatham counties.
An estimated 133,000 power outages were reported statewide Thursday afternoon with the majority, more than 67,000, in the eastern part of the state, said spokeswoman Julia Jarema of North Carolina’s Division of Emergency Management. Snowfall totals ranged from 12 to 14 inches in northwestern North Carolina, with 14 inches also falling in Statesville, said meteorologist Nick Petro of the National Weather Service in Raleigh. South of Statesville, Charlotte reported 7 inches. In the Triad area of Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point, totals were generally in the 4- to 6-inch range with 7 to 8 inches in some locations. About 4 inches to 6 inches fell in the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, he said.
Snow showers Thursday could bring as much as another 3 to 4 inches in the counties along the Virginia border, he said, with an additional 2 to 3 inches possible in the Triangle.
While the storm caused plenty of problems, it’s not historic, he said. “It wouldn’t make the top 10 in terms of snowfall,” he said.
It will take a few days for streets to clear completely, as temperatures rise during the day and fall at night, causing melted snow to refreeze, he said.
David Bradley, 49, and his wife woke up Thursday morning without electricity in their Raleigh home so he headed out to see if the neighborhood gas station was open and had coffee. His thoughts turned to a 2002 storm that delivered heavy snow and ice that immobilized the Raleigh area and left him without power for 10 days.
He was hoping for a shorter wait this time, and signs were already hopeful: A chugging snow plow pushed the wet, heavy mix to the side of the road, and a traffic light at the intersection a quarter-mile away was operating.
“This is really overall not that bad, and it’s already starting to melt,” said Bradley. “It’s just going to be the secondary roads that are going to be tough for a while, and then it’s going to be getting the power back on.”
Mike Spears, 30, of Raleigh didn’t wait for roads to clear before he retrieved the Mustang convertible he abandoned Wednesday during a tortured attempt to navigate stalled Raleigh traffic. The rear-wheel-drive muscle car had slid off the road repeatedly, each time righted by motorists behind him who jumped out to push Spears back onto the trail. He was nearly out of fuel when he rolled it off the side of a four-lane city street near Central Prison.
“When I got here, my (fuel) light turned on and as I was sliding for the third or fourth time, I said, you know what, I’m done. I don’t want to chance running into someone else or running out of gas,” Spears said.
Spears brought friends and a pickup truck back to the spot Thursday to try to get it back onto the pavement, and they eventually succeeded in getting the Mustang back on the road.
At least Spears’ car was where he left it. The state Highway Patrol had towed 139 abandoned vehicles as of Thursday morning, Gov. Pat McCrory said. Patrol officials said cars posing an immediate safety threat were towed, and some left in travel lanes were pulled to the sides of roads.
Kloth returned to her car to find it where she left it, but deep in mud. A friend of her boyfriend, who drives a sports utility vehicle, pulled her out, and she got the car home Thursday afternoon. “It’s in my garage, nice and warm,” she said.