The season’s first winter storm dropped only an inch or so of snow in Winston-Salem, but the snow that did fall was “well protected under a layer of sleet and ice,” according to Dale Hester, traffic maintenance supervisor in the Winston-Salem Transportation Department.
The city hit the streets in the early morning hours with 25 trucks equipped with both plows and salt spreaders, five graders and three other trucks with plows only, and the result of their efforts could be experienced by drivers who found many roads easily passable this morning.
Still, officials were counting on the “three S’s” – salt, sun and temperature – to finish the work they had started.
The National Weather Service had predicted three to five inches of snow for Winston-Salem and surrounding areas, but Hester said that the frozen stuff stopped falling between 2 and 3 a.m. That’s when the city’s fleet went to work to clear as many roads as possible before the morning commute.
Hester said that brine was used initially on streets in the central business district downtown, until dropping temperatures made that less effective. The crews then switched to plows downtown and reported good progress on clearing the streets.
“We have done a good job hitting the major streets,” Hester said in an email update he sent in at 7:30 a.m. “We still have a long way to go, but considering the amount and type of precipitation we have made excellent progress.”
Hester said First through Fifth streets downtown were clear and that First Street out to Five Points looked good too. Hester took Reynolda Road to Coliseum Drive and drove over to Patterson Avenue and found those streets in good shape as well, and Patterson heading downtown looked good too.
Stratford Road and Hawthorne Avenue near Forsyth Hospital were in good shape.
County Manager Dudley Watts said the county's general services crew was able to make county facilities accessible this morning. Forsyth County government typically does not close for inclement weather.
"It's a skeleton crew, because a lot of people stayed home out of concern ... but we're open," Watts said.
Scott Angell, Forsyth County's general services director, said Monday that workers would be on call overnight to start clearing county parking lots.
Drivers on the interstates and road like U.S. 52 had no problems, thanks to efforts by state road crews. Meanwhile, in town Hester said that crews were hoping to work into many of the residential areas this morning.
“Be safe if you need to travel the streets today,” he said. “Our advice to motorists is that if you don’t need to go out, don’t, but if you do, use caution and travel and low speeds. Just because it’s clear doesn’t mean it isn’t slick. What melts today will freeze later tonight, increasing the potential for black ice.”
The winter storm warning for the Triad was cancelled at 9 a.m. this morning – a few hours ahead of schedule. Public schools were off because of the storm and there were widespread cancellations.
The snow started falling almost on schedule Monday, arriving just before the predicted 4 p.m. start of the storm here. Streets were quickly glazed in white. The city’s emergency personnel reported about 30 wrecks within the first two hours, some involving minor injuries.
Traffic was backed up in places as people made their way home, and Marshall Street coming south into downtown was closed off at one point because cars were getting halfway up the hill before spinning to a stop. Police closed off the street and had drivers go back down to find another route.
The N.C. Highway Patrol reported many accident-related accidents, and Piedmont Triad International Airport experienced cancellations and delays because of the storm.
Authorities said the area is not out of the woods because bitterly cold winds are the next thing up: After a low of 18 tonight, the thermometer will plunge to five degrees Wednesday night and two degrees Thursday, with the high on Thursday not even topping 20 degrees and staying below freezing until Saturday.