LUMBERTON — Winter Storm Leon, following the script laid out by forecasters, made a pass through Robeson County on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing sleet then snow and leaving a scene that could have been painted by Claude Monet himself — and little destruction — in its wake.
Leon was expected to bring Robeson County to a grinding halt, and although commerce slowed and most residents stayed at home, no power outages or major traffic wrecks occurred. Instead, families took to their lawns to play in the cold, wet fluff that so rarely blankets the region.
“We had a long long period of sleet. If we had gotten the same amount of liquid and it had been all snow, we would have had about a foot of snow,” said Terry Lebo, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Leon poured up to 5 inches of snow in Robeson County on Tuesday night, with Maxton seeing the most of the powdery stuff and St. Pauls getting barely an inch, according to the National Weather Service.
“Maxton was probably just about all snow. The farther east you get … that’s probably where it was more of a 50/50 mix of sleet and snow,” Lebo said.
Lumberton reported 2.5 to 4 inches of accumulation, including the sleet that fell for several hours on Tuesday evening. Temperatures in the mid-20s on Wednesday did little to melt the frost before dropping into the teens overnight, keeping the county’s white blanket largely intact. Today, residents can enjoy slightly warmer temperatures — mid-30s — and some sunshine before settling in for another frigid night.
Leon was expected to bring up to 8 inches of snow to the county, prompting a litany of closings, travel warnings and worries about power outages.
Area schools continued to cancel classes for the third day in a row. The Public Schools of Robeson County and Robeson Community College are both closed today. Classes at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will resume today at 12:30 p.m and will end at 8 p.m.
A decision is expected later today on classes for Friday.
Lumberton city offices and Red Springs town offices are set to open at 10 a.m. today while Robeson County offices and courts remain closed. Fairmont and Pembroke offices are also closed for the third day. The Lumbee Tribal Government’s offices are also closed today.
Although major roads are largely clear, officials ask that residents continue to drive carefully this morning, as low temperatures again cause roads to freeze. The most danger is off the main roads.
“I’m hoping today it’s going to get up high enough to help these secondary roads, but I would recommend being cautious today and possibly into the weekend,” Sgt. Daniel Hilburn, with the state Highway Patrol said. “A lot of those secondary roads are solid ice.”
As of 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the state Department of Transportation had spread 17,275 tons of salt and sand statewide, according to a spokesperson. The numbers for Robeson County were not yet available.
The state Highway Patrol responded to 18 wrecks in the county during the storm. According to Hilburn, none resulted in serious injuries.
“I would assume that most of them are weather related if not all of them,” Hilburn said.
That report didn’t include one this morning.
At about 8:30 a.m. today, about a dozen cars were involved in about eight separate pile-ups along an icy stretch of Tar Heel Road near N.C. 41, according to an employee at The Robesonian who was driving to work.
Ed Knight said state Highway Patrol troopers and the East Howellsville Fire Department were on the scene, but there were no ambulances there when he drove by. Several cars were in ditches and one was overturned, Knight said.
Lumberton was the only municipality to report a wreck since Tuesday evening, but no one was hurt and little property damage was done, Police Chief Michael McNeill said.
Southeastern Regional Medical Center reported about six weather-related injuries, including falls, on Wednesday.
Duke Energy, Lumberton, Red Springs and Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation reported no power outages related to Leon.
“I was a little worried when it started with freezing rain, but that ended about 9 or 10 last night,” spokesman Walter White said on Wednesday. “We had not a single outage.”
White also cautioned residents to drive slowly so as not to lose control of their cars and hit utility poles.
The snow will likely begin a slow melt on Friday under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-40s. What is left will most likely become just a memory as temperatures push 60 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, when rain is in the forecast.
Lenoir County enjoyed the most flurries in the state, with about 7 inches accumulated, Lebo said. Dare County saw about 6 inches. Western North Carolina was unusually dry, with just an inch falling in some areas. Snow totals in the Raleigh area ranged from 1.4 inches at Raleigh-Durham Airport, to about 5.8 in Scotland Neck, according to television station WRAL.