When county residents awoke Monday morning the ground was blanketed with snow, causing school to be closed, along with other public offices and most private businesses, and making for hazardous driving conditions.
Some believe the poor driving conditions could last the rest of the week due to forecasts of freezing overnight temperatures.
Monday morning, emergency management reported numerous accidents on county roads, and police in Rockingham and Hamlet encouraged people to stay off the roads if at all possible.
“We’ve had a more-than-normal amount of wrecks out on the roads, which is to be expected with weather like this,” Richmond County Emergency Management Director Frank McKay said. “It’s not good out there.”
McKay said he spoke with a meteorologist in Raleigh around noon Monday, who said that while the county has probably seen the bulk of the snow it will get, freezing rain is expected overnight and roadways are expected to be in poorer condition Tuesday morning. He said he expected the conditions to persist beyond Tuesday, however, because of freezing overnight temperatures the rest of the week.
“So what we will probably see is this stuff freezing and then re-freezing for the rest of the week,” McKay said. “Folks need to stay inside unless you’ve got a real good reason to be out on the roads. You’re just going to cause problems for yourself and others.”
Rockingham Police Chief Robert Voorhees said officers had received several reports of citizens driving four-wheelers and other all-terrain vehicles on city streets.
“First and foremost, we don’t suspend any laws on snow days, so if you don’t have some emergency situation there’s no need to be driving a four-wheeler out on the streets just to look around,” Voorhees said. “There are still cars out there, and it’s unsafe.”
He explained ice is expected to follow the snow, meaning roads are unlikely to be in any better condition Tuesday than they were Monday.
“A lot of what we’ve been seeing with accidents is involving four-wheel drives,” Voorhees said. “It’s important to understand that a four-wheel drive doesn’t stop any better than any other car - they just pick up a little better traction to get going. When they have a four-wheel drive, people tend to get a little over-confident in their ability to stop, and that’s how you end up with a lot of accidents on ice and snow.”
Voorhees also asked people be cognizant of the danger posed to emergency responders when there are numerous accidents on roads that are in poor condition.
“If you get out here playing around and get into an accident, it poses danger to emergency responders who have to get out to assist you,” he explained. “We’re here to serve and protect everybody, and we want to make sure everyone’s safe, but we are asking the public to hunker down and enjoy the snow. Just build your snowmen or whatever you do, but don’t get out on the roads unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
In Hamlet, Police Chief John Haywood also stressed the importance of staying off the roads until they are cleared later in the week.
“We encourage everyone to stay off the road unless it’s an absolute emergency,” Haywood said. “Call us if you absolutely need to get somewhere for an emergency, and we can help you out as long as it’s in the city. Other than that, stay on your sled.”
Haywood said those who have to drive somewhere should take precautions to avoid an accident.
“If you do have to drive somewhere - buckle up, drive slow and be safe,” he said.