Wednesday’s wintry weather got off to a wet start through most of Richmond County, with many not seeing any sign of snow until just before 1 p.m. — and even then it was just a few flakes mixed with rain.
By that time, however, about an inch had fallen in Ellerbe, according to Mayor Lee Berry.
Berry said the snow began around 9:30 and by 10 a.m. he had told town workers to go home, saying it wasn’t worth the risk of wrecking.
Early in the afternoon, Berry said the roads were slushy and the temperature was hovering at the freezing mark, creating the potential for travel hazards.
What was “amazing,” he added,” was that there was no snow at the Berry Patch, just a few miles outside of town — but a winter wonderland at the town limits, just past Dollar General.
While originally on a two-hour delay Richmond County Schools officials called off classes for Wednesday before 7 a.m.
The winter weather threat also pushed the Daily Journal’s print deadline to 3 p.m.
By noon, more than 3 inches had fallen in Randolph County, an hour north. A member of a surveying crew posted photos and videos to his Facebook page, documenting the progression.
A 1 p.m. weather briefing from the National Weather Service in Raleigh showed light snow expected for Richmond, Anson, Stanly and Montgomery counties; moderate to heavy snowfall for Moore County; and the heaviest accumulation forecast between Sanford and Dunn, south of Raleigh.
A winter storm warning was in effect until 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Forecasters said a swath of the central part of the state could get as many as 8 inches by the time the snow stops falling later in the day, the Associated Press reported.
“This storm is moving a little slower than they had anticipated, but that means that the impacts on our state could be even greater,” Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference.
Acknowledging that some people in the central part of the state had gone to work before the heavy accumulation began, Cooper urged them to “go ahead and go home from work because it’s going to get a little nasty out there.”
He said that most of the state’s 115 school systems had canceled or delayed classes.
The state Highway Patrol had already responded to more than 500 collisions by Wednesday morning, patrol commander Col. Glenn McNeill said. State roads had been treated with more than 2 million gallons of anti-icing salt brine.
About a quarter of the day’s 360 arrivals and departures had been canceled at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, aviation officials said.
Duke Energy reported about 5,400 outages concentrated mostly in the Charlotte area, as well as Durham and Orange counties. Cooper said that because the storm was packing mostly snow, outages shouldn’t be as bad as they would be during an ice storm.
The forecast on the NWS website called for 1 to 3 inches of snow with precipitation tapering off throughout the night.
Overnight lows were predicted to drop to 15 degrees, with wind chill values as low as 5.
The cold temperatures combined with the snow will create a black ice hazard, especially on secondary roads that were not pretreated. Drivers are encouraged to use caution.
This was Richmond County’s second snow in this month. A winter storm on Jan. 3 dumped 2 to 4 inches across the county and subfreezing temps helped it linger for days.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.