Traffic moves along Hunter Hill Road on Wednesday.
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Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

Traffic moves along Hunter Hill Road on Wednesday.

Police respond to 20 wrecks in early hours of storm

By Tyler Kes
Staff Writer

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As snow began falling in the Twin Counties Wednesday afternoon, Rocky Mount police responded to weather-related accidents, and forecasters warned of potentially worse conditions as a result of ice.

“It is hard to say how much snow you will get, but the potential is there for an inch to 2 inches,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Blaez said.

The worst conditions are expected Wednesday night, when the snow is expected to turn into freezing rain, creating a glaze of ice up to an inch thick, Blaez said.

“Thursday temperatures should climb over freezing, with another bout of snow,” Blaez said.

The temperature should begin to warm into the 40s Friday, Blaez said, which should begin to melt the snow and ice, but not dramatically.

Due to the weather, Edgecombe County Public Schools, Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, Edgecombe Community College and Nash Community College canceled classes Wednesday, and N.C. Wesleyan College planned to close at 12:30 p.m.

The city of Rocky Mount has not canceled any events or services so far, and planned to keep an eye on the weather, public affairs manager Tameka Kenan-Norman said.

Road conditions began to deteriorate shortly after the snow began to fall, Rocky Mount police Cp. Mike Lewis said.

“We are already responding to a large amount of traffic accidents and urging anyone who does not have to be out driving to stay home,” Lewis said. “The conditions are already treacherous and are getting worse, especially on bridges and overpasses.”

Lewis said there were at least 20 accidents, and the department would respond to everything in order of emergency.

The Rocky Mount Department of Public Works has been treating the roads with brine since Monday.

The rain the counties received did not affect the brine already laid down, Assistant Director Blair Hinkle said.

“It takes about an inch of rain before the brine is no longer effective,” Hinkle said.

The department has used about 33 percent more brine, sand and salt than it normally would, Hinkle said, but the city is well-stocked, having just purchased 50 tons of salt at $124 per ton.

Half of that will be used to make about 75,000 gallons of brine, enough for six or seven events, Hinkle said.

There is usually one application of brine per event, using between 6,000 and 7,000 gallons each application, Hinkle said.

The city is not in danger of running out of money for supplies, Hinkle said.

“Every storm response requires money,” Hinkle said. “We are going to respond when there is a storm. If we get to the point where we start hitting budget limits, we will look at restructuring some of the existing budgets.”

The largest cost to the department so far has been overtime.

“Our entire division works around the clock during a winter event,” Hinkle said. “We are getting close to our overtime budget. We do have reserve funds though.”

Hinkle also said the department is ready to start cutting trees if any should fall due to the ice.

In the event of a power outage, The city asks that residents to call the Public Utilities 24 hour emergency line at 467-4800 and report the outage, Director of Utilities Rich Worsinger said.

The city will begin working on the circuit that supplies power to the most amount of people as soon as possible, Worsinger said.

Worsinger also said if an area does lose power, residents should not hook up generators inside the house.

“If you are running a generator and you want to hook something up to it that’s fine,” Worsinger said. “Do not hook the generator up to the house wiring, that needs to be done by a licensed electrician because it could backfire into the system.”

The Nash County Health Department, working with the American Red Cross, opened an emergency shelter at Englewood Baptist at 1350 South Winstead Avenue.

Cots are provided for travelers and residents who lose power, and are encouraged to bring blankets, food and any special medication, Coordinator of Health Services Amy Bellflower Thomas said.

Pets are not allowed.

More information about the shelter can be found by calling 462-1202.