Waking up Tuesday morning felt a little colder than usual. With the temperature right at freezing and a wind chill that made it feel like 14 degrees, Sampson County residents bundled up for a cold front coming from the northeast that brought in rain, snow and freezing temperatures. None of it was helped by wind gusts blowing at 18 mph.
Despite the fun children had playing in the fallen snow Tuesday, getting around in vehicles proved to be somewhat of a challenge.
However, thanks to staff at the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the city of Clinton, as well as plenty of preparation, the roadways in Sampson and Duplin counties were as safe as they could be when the snow hit.
“We started putting out salt brine Monday,” said K.E. Fussell, district engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. “And we began salting the primaries and pushing (snow) on I-40 ...”
Fussell noted that the 18 trucks in Sampson County, 12 in Duplin County and four (motor) graders working where needed, were already pushing snow by Tuesday morning. However, the DOT district engineer also noted that conditions were expected to be worse this (Wednesday) morning, and although the DOT trucks will be working “around the clock,” using caution is key to a safe journey.
“The biggest thing is that if you do not have to go on the roads, don’t get on the roads,” Fussell said. “It was raining Monday, it rained Tuesday morning and by overnight Tuesday, all of that is going to freeze. It will be snow on top of ice and we are just starting to see black ice — that will be very treacherous to drive in. We can push snow, but we can’t push the ice.”
Fussell said DOT works on the interstate first, then primaries and then secondary roads.
“People traveling on the secondary roads should use extreme caution or, if it is not an emergency, stay off the road altogether,” she said.
City of Clinton public works crews were manning the plows and clearing roadways, starting with areas around Sampson Regional Medical Center and the Sampson County Detention Center first, and then handling other areas that needed the most attention.
Although most town offices in Sampson County closed at noon Tuesday, snow reports, as of Tuesday afternoon, varied.
In Garland, over an inch of snow fell; in Salemburg, an 1.75 inches fell; Plain View reports were at four inches of snow; in Clement, at least 3 inches; in Autryville 1.5 inches fell; in Newton Grove about 2.5 inches of snow; and in Clinton, a solid 4 inches of snow was reported on the ground.
“We shut down the offices at noon,” said city of Clinton city manager John Connet. “The public works crew will have a skeleton crew and clear the roads when necessary. The fire department, police department and EMS will still be on as usual. We will play it by ear and see what happens before we make a decision about Wednesday.”
Sampson County manager Scott Sauer said that offices closed early Tuesday. “We shut down for Tuesday,” he said. “And we really don’t know about Wednesday as of yet. That decision will be based on how bad it is late Tuesday.”
Sauer said the amount of snow that fell Tuesday afternoon took him back a bit.
“It was a surprise,” he said. “To be honest, I really didn’t expect to see so much of it.”
Although Sampson County and Clinton City schools students are in the midst of a three-day break, teachers at the county schools returned for an optional work day Tuesday on a two-hour delay, while Clinton City educators were given the day off by superintendent Dr. Gene Hales.
“We were going to go for the two-hour delay,” Hales said Tuesday morning, “but we just got word that the weather will get a little bit worse come this afternoon. We have teachers coming in from all over, and even a few from Wilmington, so we just decided that the best thing to do for everyone is to keep everyone off the roads.”
Hales said system officials will evaluate the weather later in the afternoon before making a call concerning Wednesday’s teacher work day.
A call to the Sampson County Schools system Tuesday stated that the two-hour delay will remain in effect for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Students are expected to return to school systems as planned Thursday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, officials from Four County Electric Corporation and South River Electric Membership Corporation said there were no outages in their respective areas of service.
“As long as it stays snowy, we think we will be OK,” said Cathy O’Dell, manager of member services for South River Electric Membership Corporation. “As it turns icy, we may see some problems.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Progress Energy reported multiple power outages on Hwy. 13, just east of Hwy. 701 and a small outage (213 customers) at Timberlake in Clinton. Power was expected to be restored by late afternoon Tuesday.
The white winter weather put a cold snap on government Tuesday as the county came to a grinding halt due to the snow, which in some areas of Duplin grew to over four inches before tapering off.
All government offices were closed as were schools, and roads, though passable in most areas, were hard to navigate.
Snow spread across Duplin, beginning early in the morning, dumping over an inch of snow before 9 a.m. By noon, areas around Tram Road, near B.F. Grady School, were reporting snowfall upwards of four inches.
In Mount Olive, Duplin commissioners chairman Cary Turner said a heavy blanket of white covered the fields and the roads.
“We are getting a good snow,” he said. Turner also commented that he had witnessed three vehicles in ditches along U.S. Highway 55 as he was traveling during the day Tuesday.
Schools were expected to open today without delay, said one official, unless the administration opts to announce a change. No change was announced by press time Tuesday evening. Likewise the county has not announced a change of schedule for today. Commissioners were expected to meet at 9 a.m.
Light dustings were reported east of Beulaville, and in Rose Hill. Snow estimates in Kenansville were at over an inch.
No power outages were reported in the Tri-County Electric Corporation, or Four County Membership Corporation.
The Highway Patrol in Duplin could not be reached for comment.
To reach Doug Clark call (910) 592-8137 ext. 139 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.