Efforts to clear roadways were focused at the northern and western ends of Sampson County, the hardest hit by the latest winter storm, which merely dusted the central and southern portions of the county.
A Winter Weather Advisory remained in effect for Sampson and numerous other counties until Friday morning given dangerous travel conditions across most of central North Carolina. Sampson was on the outskirts of that advisory area, however areas of Sampson — Plain View, Newton Grove, Spivey’s Corner and Autryville among them — received close to an inch, nearing two inches, of snow.
“They were definitely the hardest hit,” said Keith Jackson, N.C. Department of Transportation’s maintenance engineer in Sampson. “There was just a dusting in Clinton and mostly rain south of that.”
Jackson said crews were fighting daylight on Thursday to clear secondary roads, having already cleared the interstate and primary roads by 10 a.m. Thursday. Two crews were working through the storm, which crept in from northern Sampson, late Wednesday afternoon. One crew knocked off in the early-morning hours, while the other worked around the clock in order to get a jump.
“We worked throughout the night,” Jackson attested.
Just prior to the snow falling Wednesday, Jackson preached the importance of hitting the pavement as early as possible, which is exactly what they did, literally waiting for the storm as it arrived.
While I-40 and the major roadways in Sampson were cleared by Thursday morning, the secondary routes that make up the majority of paths through the county were the focus. Jackson said, along with the 12 trucks already in Sampson, four additional ones — two from Pender County, two from Brunswick — were brought in to help with the effort in the northern end.
Between DOT’s efforts and Mother Nature, a sizable dent had been made as of Thursday afternoon.
“We will work this evening throughout the night until it’s done,” said Jackson. “My hope’s that we wrap this thing up, but my concern is those wet spots that turn to ice.”
The National Weather Service warned of such areas. When the sun sets and the temperature falls below freezing again Thursday night, the wet roads from melted snow will re-freeze, resulting in black ice. That was Jackson’s main concern, as they were again racing against the clock on the secondary roads, clearing what they could and spreading salt.
“But once it gets below 20 degrees, that salt doesn’t work,” he said. “As long as we can work, we’re going to work to clear everything.”
It was unclear as of Thursday evening, whether another closure or delay would be in store for Sampson County Schools, which has already been out due to weather five days this month. Clinton City Schools, which has missed four days, was back to its regular schedule on Friday. Both, along with Sampson Community College, were closed Wednesday and Thursday.
Duplin County Schools and James Sprunt Community College dismissed early on Wednesday and opened on a delay Thursday. Sampson County government did the same, closing at 3 p.m. Wednesday in anticipation of inclement weather” before opening back at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.