LUMBERTON — While cities across North Carolina reported total gridlock and motorists abandoning their cars, many Robesonians stayed inside on Wednesday as winter storm Pax poured freezing rain over the county, closing down businesses, schools and offices for the second day.
The Public Schools of Robeson County will again be closed on Thursday. It will be students’ seventh snow day since winter storm Leon hit about two weeks ago. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Robeson Community College will be closed on Thursday.
Robeson County offices will be closed on Thursday as will Lumberton city offices.
Maj. Tommy Barnes, of the Lumberton Police Department, said every road in town requires extra caution over the next 48 hours.
“The thing that gets people in trouble is that they tend to try to drive like they would in normal conditions,” Barnes said. “They’ve got to keep in mind that the normal traction between the asphalt and the tires is not there.” Barnes suggested driver slower and “dramatically decreasing” the distance between cars.
Lumberton, the only municipality to report any traffic accidents, responded to 27 accidents from Tuesday morning until Wednesday afternoon, according to Barnes. Seventeen of those accidents occurred between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday. None were fatal.
The state Highway Patrol could not be reached all day Wednesday, but had already responded to about 30 wrecks during a five-hour span beginning on Tuesday morning. Two lanes of traffic were shut down on Interstate 74 near mile marker 209 because of an accident on Wednesday at noon.
In Lumberton, Biggs Park Mall, Lowes Hardware and two Food Lion locations were closed Wednesday, while other stores chose to play it by ear. The Fairfield Inn was having to offer discounts to stranded guests, according to an employee who asked not to be named.
Along Fayetteville Road and Roberts Avenue in Lumberton, some businesses were open, some were closed, and the streets were mostly empty.
In light of the forecast, the Lumberton Christian Care Center temporarily relaxed its admission requirements for homeless people. Guests can check in anytime “as long as they go by the Police Department and get their ID’s checked,” said Night Manager John Cassidy. Normally, guests can only check in after 7 p.m. Cassidy said the center had just one occupant on Tuesday night.
More icy slush is expected across Robeson and as much of an inch of ice could accumulate by Thursday because of freezing rain. The county is already under as many as 6 inches of snow in some places, including Lumberton and areas just to the northwest.
“The heaviest accumulations will be during the day [Wednesday]; it will lighten up overnight and taper off tomorrow,” said Carl Morgan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
Freezing rain is likely on Thursday as well, eventually becoming liquid as temperatures climb to the high-30s. Less than a quarter inch of precipitation is expected to fall Thursday before skies gradually clear up at night.