Frigid temperatures will blanket Sampson County and the rest of the state starting Monday night and continuing throughout the day Tuesday, causing school delays and prompting local officials to urge proper precautions by everyone.
With no precipitation in the forecast for Sampson, many are simply bracing for the cold — some of the lowest temperatures the county has seen in decades. On Monday afternoon, both Clinton City and Sampson County schools announced 2-hour delays at both systems for Tuesday, “due to the threat of inclement weather and poor road conditions in the early-morning hours.”
Lin Reynolds, district engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said his department was not planning to salt the roads as the weather, aside from plummeting temperatures, was not expected to be a safety hazard for travelers.
“They’re not really calling for anything around here as far as ice or rain, so we’re not planning on doing anything other than monitoring the situation,” said Reynolds. “Since there is no ice or rain involved, we’re just going to wait and see.”
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Raleigh released an urgent winter weather message for nearly all of North Carolina early Monday, warning of frigid temperatures late Monday night and Tuesday morning, and continuing throughout the day Tuesday. Many in Sampson County woke up to wet and overcast, but balmy, conditions hovering around 60 degrees Monday morning, however that was expected to change very abruptly.
A wind chill advisory will be in effect in eastern North Carolina, including Sampson, from 3 a.m. until noon Tuesday. Residents are strongly urged to bundle up.
“Wind chill values will rapidly fall into the teens by midnight across the coastal plan and Interstate 95 corridor, bottoming out at 0 to -5 degrees by sunrise Tuesday morning,” the NWS stated. “A wind chill advisory means that very cold air and strong winds will combine to generate low wind chill readings. This will result in frost bite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken.”
Clinton’s lowest recorded temperature was -2 degrees nearly 30 years ago. That same mark, factoring in the wind chill, is anticipated for Tuesday.
The low Monday night in central Sampson was expected to be around 13. However with winds between 15 and 17 mph, and gusts as high as 28 mph, those temperatures will feel sub-zero, weather officials said. And it will not let up, with a high of 27 degrees Tuesday and wind chill values as low as -2 factoring in wind gusts as high as 24 mph.
While the temperature plunge is expected to be sizable, precipitation is not expected to compound matters for government operations.
“At this time we are simply on standby,” said Clinton city manager Shawn Purvis. “We do have some wet roads and moisture right now, so we will encourage everyone to be careful on the roads. With no actual precipitation in the forecast, we do not have any immediate plans for snow or ice preparations. We will monitor the weather in case things change.”
According to the NWS, the unusually cold arctic airmass combined with breezy northwest winds was expected to result in “brutally cold wind chill values” of 0 to -10 degrees late Monday night and Tuesday morning in Clinton and Sampson, as well as surrounding counties, which could pose a health hazard for those exposed to the elements.
“At this point, there are no plans to open shelters,” said assistant Sampson County manager Susan Holder, who also serves as the county’s public information officer. “Were there to be significant power outages related to the cold, we would then activate the portion of the Emergency Operations Plan that addressed sheltering. The sheltering group would determine at that point how best to address the specific need. This is somewhat different than an ice or snow storm in that, with no precipitation, people will be able to be mobile.”
As Purvis did, Holder urged that residents be safe and said conditions would be monitored so the county could keep residents abreast of any developments or affected services.
“Public Works has done routine maintenance checks on our water system in preparation for cold weather,” said Holder.
Purvis said aging water lines — and ensuring they hold up in the midst of a temperature plunge — is a big concern for Clinton. The city has experienced line breaks in previous years under similar conditions.
“Right now it’s just bitter cold,” said Purvis. “We will be more concerned about monitoring our utility lines that are more likely to experience breaks with such drastic changes in temperature.”
As important as it is for residents to practice precaution when dealing with the cold, the same kind of care needs to be extended to cats and dogs.
According to the ASPCA, if it is too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for your pet.
The group offers cold weather tips on its website, including to keep cats and, if possible, dogs inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. During cold snaps, cats often hide beneath cars, in wheel wells or under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt.
“If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape,” the ASPCA states on its site.
There is no precipitation expected, but owners should be sure to wipe any salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals off the paws of their dogs who might be walking outside or hiding under cars. Short-haired breeds can be better protected with a coat or warm shirt and those dogs sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type should be taken outdoors only long enough to relieve themselves. Also avoid leaving a dog in a cold car.
“Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts,” the ASPCA states. “A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.”
The cold blast prompted officials at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro to announce they will be closed Tuesday because of concern about the impact of the temperatures on both visitors and staff. Workers planned to report to work normally to care for the animals and deal with any weather-related problems.
Holder said measures were being taken to protect the animals currently at the county shelter.
“The Animal Shelter will ensure that special needs animals — the very young, frail and health-compromised — are repositioned to the warmest areas and have warm cover,” Holder noted. “They will be periodically monitoring the heating system of the shelter to ensure the temperate is adequate.”
Up to 5 inches of snow is possible near the North Carolina-Tennessee state line and warnings stated temperatures in that area could be as low as 31 below zero Tuesday morning. Similar conditions are expected near the North Carolina-Virginia state line, with wind chills as low as 15 below zero early Tuesday.
Not anticipated to get that low here, the temperature is still prompting a fair amount of concern.
“If you must venture outdoors (Monday night) and Tuesday morning make sure to wear several layers of clothing in addition to a hat and gloves,” the NWS warning heeded.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.