A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for our area in advance of snow predicted for later today. Craven County Schools are releasing early today to get children home before the roads get too bad.
Here is raw data from the National Weather Service:
URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
National Weather Service Newport/Morehead City NC
1010 AM EST Wed Jan 17 2018
...LIGHT SNOW TO DEVELOP OVER EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA LATE THIS
...COASTAL LOW WILL BRING LOCALLY HEAVIER SNOWS TO COASTAL NORTH
.Rain will begin early this afternoon for the Coastal Plain, then
transition to a rain and snow mix, then primarily snow late this
afternoon into the evening for inland and northern areas, with 1
to as much as 2 inches possible.
Then, a coastal low will develop and bring a period of locally
heavier snow to the Eastern NC coast tonight, with up to 2 to 4
Washington-Tyrrell-Mainland Dare-Beaufort-Mainland Hyde-Craven-
Pamlico-Carteret-Outer Banks Dare-Outer Banks Hyde-
Including the cities of Plymouth, Roper, Creswell, Columbia,
Gum Neck, Manns Harbor, Stumpy Point, East Lake, Washington,
Chocowinity, Belhaven, Bath, Aurora, Engelhard, Fairfield,
Ponzer, Scranton, Swanquarter, New Bern, Havelock, Vanceboro,
Cove City, Oriental, Bayboro, Arapahoe, Vandemere, Morehead City,
Beaufort, Newport, Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, Kitty Hawk,
Nags Head, Manteo, Rodanthe, Buxton, Hatteras Village,
1010 AM EST Wed Jan 17 2018
...WINTER STORM WARNING NOW IN EFFECT FROM 7 PM THIS EVENING TO
6 AM EST THURSDAY...
* WHAT...Snow expected. Plan on difficult travel conditions. Total
snow accumulations of up to two to four inches are expected.
* WHERE...Portions of eastern North Carolina.
* WHEN...From 7 PM this evening to 6 AM EST Thursday.
* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...Be prepared for significant reductions in
visibility at times.
A Winter Storm Warning for snow means severe winter weather
conditions are expected. If you must travel, keep an extra
flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an
emergency. The latest road conditions for the state you are
calling from can be obtained by calling 5 1 1.
With more snow in the forecast for later Wednesday, folks may be thinking back a couple of weeks to the snow event that shut down much of New Bern for several days and left streets and highways coated with ice.
But there are big differences between the snow predicted for Wednesday and the snow that fell on Jan. 3.
“Snowmageddon” shut down the city for two days and schools for a full week, from Wednesday, Jan. 3, when the mere whiff of snow in the forecast was enough for jittery administrators to stop the buses, through Tuesday, Jan. 9. Country roads were in such poor shape on Wednesday, Jan. 10, that schools started three hours late.
Stanley Kite, Craven County Emergency Services coordinator, said the Jan. 3 snow storm was atypical of an Eastern N.C. snow event, with some additional complications thrown in for good measure.
There was a long period of freezing temperatures before the snow, setting up a framework for icing that was underlying the snow once it began to fall. Then, days after, the area continued to experience sub-freezing temperatures. That rendered normal processes like road plowing and brine ineffective for clearing roads and keeping them ice free, Kite said.
“The NC DOT was in a nonstop battle to keep the main corridors open,” he said. That kept limited DOT resources from venturing out to secondary and local roads.
Limited resources? Yes.
“Most agencies have cut back on equipment. DOT doesn’t have that many, the city of New Bern has only a couple capable of it,” Kite said.
Fun fact: Many New Bern “city streets” are actually maintained by N.C. DOT. The city’s primary responsibility are secondary streets and residential streets, with a few exceptions.
The state sent additional resources to ENC but they did not show up in Craven County, Kite said. Some were kept in Greenville and Kinston, while the rest was diverted to the Sandhills region, Kite said.
Why the cutbacks?
Snow rigs aren’t cheap and wind up sitting in the yard unused most of the time.
“It doesn’t snow that often and that makes it hard for local elected officials to justify the expenses,” he said.
The Jan. 3 storm lasted longer than most people were prepared for. “Like hurricanes, after day three, cabin fever sets in and people want out. And they realize when they try to do that if they aren’t on a primary transportation corridor that their local roads are still covered in ice.”
DOT focuses resources on main transportation corridors in order to keep resupply lines open for food and fuel.
Because of the continuing battle to keep the main highways open, city surface streets did not receive the attention they normally would.
“I heard people had heartburn on Broad Street,” Kite said. Broad Street and other city streets remained coated with ice for days after the Jan. 3 snowfall.
Ironically, the streets may have been more passable had they not been plowed, since snow provides more traction than ice.
“We had more incidents on Day 3 than on Day 1,” Kite said.
On the bright side, perhaps due to lessons learned, the bridges were better managed than what they had been in the past, Kite said.
As for tomorrow, Kite said the forecast calls for rain from New Bern to the west on Wednesday morning, turning to snow later in the day, with 1-2 inches of accumulation.
But this snow event is more typical of the area. It was preceded by warmer days, and it is expected to get warmer on Thursday, avoiding all of the problems that were associated with the Jan. 3 snow storm.
Things are getting back to normal now that the holidays are behind us. Just kidding.
With snow and ice still blanketing the region, it’s like having an extra week off for the Christmas break. Schools have been closed since Jan. 3 and were closed again today. So much of New Bern was shut down last week, it nearly felt like Christmas Day.
According to the National Weather Service, New Bern officially received 6 inches of snow overnight between Jan. 3 and Jan. 4. Breezy conditions created deep drifts in places, and sub-freezing temperatures kept the snow fresh and froze what was left, making traveling difficult.
Still, some locations, including Sonic and Piggly Wiggly, were braving the weather on Jan. 4 and serving needs. Mail delivery was spotty, however, and many businesses reduced hours or didn’t open at all.
There was enough snow that sledders had more than enough throughout the weekend and into Monday at the U.S. 70/Country Club Road interchange and at Glenburnie Park.
The ice got so bad, at least one U.S. 70 offramp had to be closed due to hardpack ice, and power was temporarily lost to the city’s emergency command center for a time on Thursday. Still, city officials worked overtime and staged equipment on all sides of the rivers to ensure all sections of the city received as much attention as possible.
Still, Valerie Noel Perry, a Craven Street resident, was not a fan of the city’s handling of this snow event.
Circumstances resulted in her making two visits over the past few days to the CarolinaEast Medical Center Emergency Room, which she described as packed. Crossing the street to Walgreens to fill a prescription, she found it closed. Crosswalks and sidewalks were coated with ice and left untreated.
Minor streets were covered with ice for days, and even several major streets were still covered with ice by the weekend. Even during the New Bern Post’s interview with her on Monday, while she was a passenger in a car, there was an ice-related crash right in front of her on Dr. ML King Jr. Boulevard in front of the IHOP restaurant.
Frustrated by responses she heard during calls to Mayor Dana Outlaw, City Manager Mark Stephens, and her alderman, Sabrina Bengel, Perry got on the phone with Raleigh, starting with the Governor’s Office and working her way down.
She even requested the N.C. National Guard be mobilized.
“I’m outraged by what mayor said,” Perry said. First, the phone number listed on the city website was inactive and she had to track down the mayor through his grandson. When she suggested the city lay down sand to improve traction on streets and sidewalks, she said Mayor Outlaw had not heard of such a measure.
Perry said she is a retired lawyer from Boston who has lived in New Bern for a year and that she loves New Bern, but does not like how it has responded to this emergency.