'Stay put and stay safe': State officials provide update on weekend winter storm
Updated at 1:30 p.m.
In a briefing on Sunday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper and state emergency management officials provided an update on the impacts of sleet and snow blanketing parts of North Carolina.
Cooper reported that some counties have seen 8-12 inches of snowfall with significant icing causing issues in the central part of the state. Twenty-five counties have declared a state of emergency, said Cooper.
As of 1:30 p.m., Duke Energy reports more than 66,000 North Carolina homes and businesses are without power. Some of the hardest-hit counties are Gaston, Jackson, Macon, and Swain, Duke Energy says. For those without power, a list of emergency shelters is available at readync.gov. Shelters or warming centers are currently in operation in Moore, Warren, and Iredell counties, said North Carolina Emergency Management Chief of Staff Don Campbell.
RDU Airport is reporting widespread flight cancellations and some delays. Airport management urges travelers to verify flight status and to contact their airlines.
With hazardous driving conditions, Commander of the North Carolina Howard Patrol Colonel Freddy Johnson urged North Carolinians to avoid the roads altogether and to use caution if they must drive.
"As of this morning, we have responded to 460 calls for service and 200 collisions in affected areas and those numbers continue to grow," said Johnson on Sunday afternoon. "If you must get out onto the roadways, please make sure you increase your following distance. Monitor your speed and be alert for downed trees and powerlines in the roadway."
In Robeson County, a portion of I-95 has been closed because of "a low-hanging, ice-covered power line," Cooper said. Drivers are being re-routed through a detour.
⚠️ Temporary closure due to storm: I-95 is closed in both directions at Exit. 31 in Robeson County. A power line with ice is about to fall on highway.— NCDOT I-95 Traffic (@NCDOT_I95) January 16, 2022
Traffic must exit at Exit 31, then can get back onto the highway at the same interchange, until pole can be fixed. pic.twitter.com/dIsZQkXOJ5
Cooper emphasized that the fewer drivers are out on the roads, the easier it is for emergency management crews to respond to incidents.
"Please don’t take unnecessary chances with this dangerous winter storm. Stay put and stay safe," said Cooper.
More than 1600 NCDOT employees and contractors are "out working around the clock" to clear roads, said Department of Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette. COVID-19 is affecting staffing among NCDOT employees and contractors, he said.
In Eastern North Carolina, the Department of Transportation has suspended sound side ferry routes to Ocracoke and Southport due to high winds and rain, said Boyette. He added that the department has "scaled back" the Cherry Branch ferry route.