Updated 5:45 p.m. | Jan. 18, 2018
Southerners shoveled, scraped and plowed their way Thursday out of a snowy deep freeze that caused a standstill across much of a region accustomed to mild winters.
At least 15 people died across the South, including a baby in a car that slid off an icy street outside New Orleans, and a 6-year-old boy who sledded onto a roadway in Virginia.
From Charlotte to Raleigh, North Carolina's five most populous cities all saw significant snow from a system that followed an atypical west-to-east path across the state — and moved more slowly than forecasters had predicted. One foot of snow was reported in Durham County by early Thursday morning. Winston-Salem and Greensboro each had about 7 inches.
Some schools are closing for a third day in a row after this week's winter storm. Wake, Durham, Orange and Guilford County Schools as well as Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are among those that have canceled classes on Friday. Cumberland County is on a two-hour delay.
North Carolina is accustomed to getting some snow, but people were surprised at the ferocity of this storm, which dumped as much as an inch per hour from the mountains to the coast and piled a foot of snow in parts of Durham County.
Mark Foley, 24, struggled to start his pickup in the 15-degree air before he was able to go pick up an in-home health aide for his disabled father.
"My lock was frozen, so I couldn't even unlock the door. So I had to use some warm water," he said. "It's more snow than we thought we were going to get."
Crews Work Around The Clock To Clear Roads
Across the state, crews worked Thursday to clear roads from the massive winter storm.
Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon said N.C. Department of Transportation crews that have been working in the foothills will be moving toward the Triad and Triangle, where main roads are still covered with snow. The Highway Patrol has responded to more than 3,500 calls for help, and more than 2,000 collisions since late Tuesday night.
DOT Spokesman Steve Abbott said roads are slippery and dangerous, and he urged motorists to stay off the road. Or if drivers must go out, to drive slowly and keep a safe distance from other vehicles, especially plows.
"If you're on an Interstate or a two-lane road, give it as wide a berth as you can if you're going to pass a plow, 'cause it's going to be spraying snow off to the side," he said. "Don't get too close behind it because sometimes the plows are also dumping salt. And you don't want to get your car all salted up like a salt lick."
Abbott said roads are likely to re-freeze again tonight.
John Rhyne, a maintenance engineer with the DOT in the central part of the state, said he's proud of his crews' ability to clear roads in the region even after this week's daunting totals.
"If it was New England and it snowed every day, I think the assumptions would be a little bit different," he said. "But it is the South. We get four or five good events a year."
Thousands of Homes in Durham and Wake Counties Remain Without Power
About 3,000 homes and businesses were without power late Thursday afternoon, according to Duke Energy.
Governor Roy Cooper said two people have died in a crash caused by slippery conditions on North Carolina's main roads. Cooper said a driver and a passenger died in Washington County when their car slid off the road.
"Bitter temperatures overnight means solid ice in the morning and we have seen and unfortunately will continue to see an alarming increase in crashes," said Cooper, who did not identify the victims. "We saw those crashes this morning and unless you stay off the road, there will be more of them."
Warmer daytime temperatures on Thursday and again on Friday will melt some snow but overnight conditions will cause re-freezing and hazardous roads.
"We're going to have cold mornings: teens tonight and 20s for lows tomorrow night," Meteorologist Nick Petro said. "So obviously that's why we're having black ice concerns, but during the daytime hours, we should see temperatures get above freezing, so that'll help with cleanup and melting."
Cooper declared a statewide emergency Tuesday to allow him to deploy resources ahead of trouble.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.