All local schools were already closed and equipment was at the ready Wednesday as a winter storm made its way toward central North Carolina, with Sampson expected to see a wintry mix that would turn to snow Wednesday night.
Clinton City Schools, Sampson County Schools and Sampson Community College were all closed Wednesday in anticipation of the weather — not a drop came before most schools would have normally dismissed for the day — and were expected to make similar announcements for Thursday once the wintry mix did materialize.
Classes at Duplin County Schools and James Sprunt Community College were in session, but dismissed early on Wednesday. Duplin County Schools were expected to open on a delay Thursday. Sampson County government did the same, closing at 3 p.m. Wednesday “in anticipation of inclement weather and with a desire to ensure our employees and those we serve remain safe during this weather event.”
County government offices planned to open at 10 a.m. Thursday, pending other announcements. Schools were also waiting to see the impact of the snow Wednesday afternoon before making decisions on delays and closings Thursday.
A Winter Weather Advisory was in effect for Sampson through Wednesday, with precipitation expected to begin as rain Wednesday afternoon and change over to snow by the early evening. Snow accumulations of up to two inches were possible in Sampson with slippery road conditions expected. National Weather Service officials said snow-covered roads and limited visibility should be expected, and caution used while driving.
N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) crews in Sampson began dropping brine mixture along primary roadways Tuesday morning and originally planned to continue into the night in preparation for an early-morning snow.
However, when the forecast changed and snow was expected toward lunchtime, crews stopped around 9 p.m. Tuesday and started back at 7 a.m. Wednesday, ensuring brine was covering major thoroughfares, said Keith Jackson, DOT’s maintenance engineer in Sampson. By early Wednesday, that wintry weather had been pushed back again, not expected to start until late Wednesday afternoon.
“We hit some hot-spot locations and made sure we had that covered,” Jackson said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re in a holding pattern, but we’re making sure everything is ready.”
Any rainfall that would precede the snow was a concern, as it would wash away the brine and waste efforts, but Jackson said that depended on how heavy the rain was. There were five contract graders at the ready, with other equipment on standby in Brunswick and New Hanover counties — not expected to be impacted much, if at all — to help in Sampson if needed.
“Hopefully, we’re not hit as hard,” said Jackson, who noted that supervisors were awaiting snow in the Plain View and Newton Grove areas as he spoke. “As soon as it starts snowing, we’re on the pavement. We hit the interstate first, then primaries, then secondaries. When we start immediately, we get much better results.”
The latest road conditions for North Carolina can be found online at DriveNC.gov.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.