Frigid temperatures that contributed to long-lasting snow on roadways, especially in southern Sampson County, have now tapered off and N.C. Department of Transportation officials used that to their advantage.
It has been a long process in some areas of the county, notably those south of Clinton and toward the Pender and Bladen county lines, including the Delway, Harrells, Garland and Ivanhoe communities. Daytime freezing temperatures in the wake of last week’s snow, accompanied by wind chills that saw those temperatures plummet into the single digits overnight, did not help the effort to clear roadways.
The majority of primary roads running through Sampson were cleared in the 36 hours that followed the snow, but secondary roads were another story.
Clinton City Schools and Sampson Community College returned to a regular schedule on Monday after being closed for Thursday and Friday after Wednesday’s late-night snowfall, but Sampson County Schools were closed again for the third day, citing “poor road conditions.” Late Monday afternoon, it was announced that Sampson County Schools would in fact be back in session at the regular time Tuesday.
Due to missed days, the workday planned for next Tuesday, Jan. 16, will now be a regular student day, SCS officials said. High school exams will be held Jan. 16-19. Teachers will have an optional workday on Saturday, Jan. 20, to allow transition between semesters.
While it took about a day longer than he had hoped, Keith Jackson, DOT’s maintenance engineer for Sampson, praised crews who worked long hours. By Monday, the work was being wrapped up and a bulk of the equipment used here — six motor graders and 13 trucks — was being taken to help with the clearing efforts in Duplin and Onslow counties.
“We’ve had a very good day today, thanks to the weather,” Jackson said Monday afternoon. “Everybody was down (in the southern end of the county) this morning. For all intents and purposes, it is clear. Hopefully by sundown, all those wet areas will be burned off.”
At the end of last week, Jackson had an optimistic goal of clearing all secondary roads by the end of the day Saturday, Sunday at the latest, so county schools could reopen to students and buses could pass through the county safely. The weather just didn’t cooperate — that is until Monday.
Temperatures are forecasted to get warmer and warmer, up from single-digits this past weekend to in excess of 70 expected Friday. Lows in the coming days are anticipated to stay above the freezing mark, which will help when any remaining snow melts. Jackson warned of possible icy spots, but said potential problem areas will continue to be monitored.
“The weather has been very persistent,” said Jackson, “but we’re certainly very pleased today.”
With the whiteout on Sampson roads alleviated, he said half the motor graders have been sent to Onslow and the other half to neighboring Duplin.
“They’re still actively working on secondary roads,” Jackson noted Monday of Duplin. “They’re still struggling.”
Of the 13 trucks that were utilized in Sampson, three of them broke down and are being repaired. He lauded the ingenuity of crew members who were able to make minor repairs as necessary to keep the vehicles in commission before they finally gave out, needing parts not readily available over the weekend. Five trucks have now been sent to Onslow, while the remaining five will be kept in Sampson “just in case issues arise,” Jackson noted.
Even with the work done, DOT trucks were out until late Monday canvassing the county to ensure all areas had received attention.
“Supervisors are riding roads just to make sure we didn’t miss anything,” he said.
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