HAMLET — Disabled and abandoned cars dotted the shoulders of N.C. 177 and U.S. 1 in eastern Richmond County on Thursday, swaths of crime-scene tape draped across their hoods, beauty queen style.
The Enviva Biomass construction site looked like a Siberian outpost, frozen and abandoned, and the Hamlet rail yard lay mostly empty.
Traffic was light, with most vehicles cautiously following the ruts made by those who had gone before or following in the wake of sand trucks or road graders. Unlike the night before, the highways bore few fishtailing pickups or snow-shrouded cars — the snow now on roofs only, shaped high and tight like soldiers’ crew cuts.
“I’ll bet I pushed 20 cars” waylaid by the snow, Hamlet Police Chief Scott Waters said at lunchtime over a bowl of beef soup. “Whatever it was (laid on the roads the day before), it really didn’t help.” (State transportation workers sprayed a brine solution on main roads in Richmond and Moore counties on Wednesday despite predictions of light snowfall.)
Patrol Capt. Marc Terry said that despite two accidents Wednesday night in which errant cars snapped utility poles at Spring Street and Battley Dairy Road, he was more worried about today and Saturday, when drivers assume conditions will be better.
“They’re going to get out there” because they see traffic today, he said — but assuming that traffic on primary roads means all roads are safe is not the case.
“Secondary roads” — like those that go past most people’s houses — “are bad,” Terry said. “Nobody should be getting out unless it’s a medical emergency.”
Workers at Arlos Towing, catty-cornered to police headquarters in Hamlet, said they had handled “probably 30” towing jobs overnight, a few of them wrecks. In one case, they had to remove a car that had slid under the back end of an 18-wheeler at County Home and Wiregrass roads, between Hamlet and Marston.
“I think everyone just got caught (unawares by the snowstorm),” said manager Eddie Calder. “When it snowed, they were at work.” And when they came out to find their cars snow covered, he said, their only thoughts were of home, even if it meant driving too fast.
At the Marston/Hoffman Post Office on U.S. 1, workers waited for the U.S. Postal Service delivery truck, which usually arrives at 7 a.m., even though Marston is the last stop on the circuit. It hadn’t arrived by noon, so workers distributed what mail they had, instructed to avoid areas they viewed as dangerous.
That “neither ran nor snow nor sleet” motto doesn’t apply when safety is concerned, said postmaster John Pettine.
“They tell (drivers that) if they don’t think it’s safe, to just go by it,” he said. “Their safety’s first.”
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]