The largest snow Sampson has seen in recent years shut down schools and government operations, and provided some a snow day just days into a new year.
Crews were fighting daylight to clear roads and, aided by a sunny day Thursday, were making solid headway in uncovering pavement across Sampson and Duplin counties. However, small patches on primary roads and partially or untouched secondary roads were expected to freeze over Thursday night.
“It’s improving,” N.C. Department of Transportation’s Keith Jackson, maintenance engineer for Sampson County, said Thursday afternoon of road conditions. “Certainly the weather helps us. The sun is activating that salt we’re putting down.”
That said, Jackson conceded that, while primary roads were getting a lot of attention — with secondary roads right behind — there would likely be some wet spots left with the melting snow.
“And it’s going to be cold (Thursday night), so there will be some icy spots around the county,” Jackson said. “We’re going to work throughout the evening, but people need to be careful.”
Temperatures were expected to be in the single digits Thursday night and Friday night, with daytime temperatures hovering around the freezing point. Cold wind chills, according to the NWS, could cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes to exposed skin. While the high for both Friday and Saturday was expected to reach 30, with wind chills, temperatures were expected to feel more like zero.
Sampson County offices, which closed early Wednesday in anticipation of inclement weather, remained closed Thursday. Assistant county manager Susan Holder said Thursday morning road conditions would be monitored before decisions were made about potential Friday closures.
The same was true of City of Clinton, as well as Clinton City Schools, Sampson County Schools and Sampson Community College. In Duplin, classes at James Sprunt Community College and Duplin County Schools were also canceled. School officials were similarly monitoring road conditions but delays, at the very least, were expected.
“It’s a mess out here,” Clinton mayor Lew Starling said Thursday morning, as city employees were spreading salt and shoveling sidewalks and stairways around the downtown square and the courthouse. County employees were doing the same at the County Complex off Rowan Road.
According to the National Weather Service, Sampson County will remain under a Winter Weather Advisory through 7 a.m. Saturday. As temperatures remain close to and below freezing through Friday, there is a greater chance of black ice on roadways.
Highway Patrol officials are urging residents to stay off roads, and when travel is necessary, to drive with extreme caution. Reports of cars in ditches continued coming into the dispatch office throughout the day Thursday. During Winter Weather Advisories, the travel conditions are hazardous due to the black ice.
“It’s not as bad as I expected,” Jackson said of wrecked vehicles. “I’ve seen a few cars in the ditch, but thankfully not as many as I thought I would. I think a lot of people took the option to stay home and be safe.”
While the snowfall accumulation — areas of Sampson received anywhere from an inch to 3 inches — was something this area hasn’t seen for awhile, Jackson attested snow is easier to deal with than ice.
“I worry about the ice a lot,” said Jackson, noting several times a wintry mix was followed by icy road conditions last winter. We’ve been concerned because the temperature has been so cold. Anywhere you see water on the pavement, that’s likely to turn to ice. People don’t see that black ice and, when they do, it’s too late.
“Snow is easier,” he said. “Ice is a bear. You can push snow; you can’t push ice.”