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Some schools, COVID testing sites close as North Carolina braces for another winter storm

A salt truck spreads brine on the road as a winter storm moves through the area near Durham, N.C., Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022.
Gerry Broome
A salt truck spreads brine on the road as a winter storm moves through the area near Durham, N.C., Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022.

Amid forecasts of snow, sleet and freezing rain on Friday, several North Carolina schools and COVID-19 testing sites have closed.

Meanwhile, state authorities are urging drivers to stay off potentially dangerous roads where black ice could be present. North Carolina’s Department of Transportation urged folks to get their supplies on Thursday night.

“We’re getting ready for this storm. You need to be ready, too,” North Carolina transportation secretary J. Eric Boyette said in a statement. “Get prepared because once this storm hits, road conditions will quickly deteriorate, and you’ll need to stay off the roads.”

Among the colleges that have canceled classes on Friday are UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State, Shaw and East Carolina. N.C. Central University moved all of its classes to virtual learning for the day.

Not all schools closed though. North Carolina A&T State said it would “operate under normal conditions” on Friday. Duke University only canceled classes that were set to begin in-person before 10 a.m.

“Most of the Triangle area received very little snow or sleet since midnight. Roads and walkways around the campus and medical center are in very good shape,” Duke posted on the emergency page of its website just before 6 a.m. Friday.

Several K-12 public school districts in the Triangle have closed for Friday too. Among the closures are schools in Wake County, Johnston County, Franklin County and Durham. Durham Public Schools said that Monday could be a remote learning day if conditions do not improve.

Hillsborough Elementary has moved to remote learning for Friday, as have schools in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system and Chatham County. Most students in Orange County already had the day off for a scheduled teacher workday, but all school buildings in the county will be closed.

The anticipation of winter weather has also forced a few COVID-19 testing sites in the Triangle to close. Wake County Public Health has closed its testing and vaccination clinics for Friday and Saturday. Those who had an appointment can return on Monday or Tuesday to their scheduled site where their appointment will be honored.

Mako Medical Laboratories closed its testing sites at PNC Arena, the Mudcats Stadium in Zebulon, WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, and at the Word of God Fellowship Church in Raleigh. They will reopen next week, Mako said.

The weather is also impacting traffic and transportation. Chapel Hill Transit announced it would delay the start time of its transit service until 10 a.m. Friday due to “anticipated icy conditions.”

The state department of transportation says it has nearly 800 employees and contract crews working or preparing to treat roads for the storm. NCDOT and its contractors have more than 300 trucks and graders ready to work on roads through the weekend, according to a news release. By Thursday afternoon, crews had already applied nearly 1 million gallons of brine to North Carolina roads, NCDOT said.

However, NCDOT is concerned that in some areas, the brine or salt might wash off the roads.

“Once the winter weather starts, the best thing you can do is stay home,” NCDOT Chief Operating Officer Beau Memory said in a statement. “Staying off the roads will make it easier for our crews and emergency responders to do their jobs.”

On I-87 near Knightdale on Friday morning, an ambulance carrying a patient slid off the road and into an embankment. According to WRAL, the patient — a woman suffering from cardiac arrest — died, but authorities do not believe she died from the accident. The two paramedics on-board suffered minor injuries, officials said.

At one point on Friday morning, WRAL reports, there were nine active crashes in Raleigh.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a state of emergency earlier this week and said 114 National Guard troops were staging in central and eastern North Carolina to prepare to assist in affected areas.

“We’re a little more concerned about this one because it’s going to be so cold Friday and Saturday night, and if there are power outages, then we are concerned about maybe some families who can’t stay warm,” Cooper said Thursday.

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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