LUMBERTON — Robesonians this morning began their commutes under flurries that began what is forecast as a three-day event.
A winter storm warning that took effect at 7 a.m., about when it began to snow, is calling for 2 to 4 inches of snow to accumulate by Thursday morning, along with up to a half an inch of ice.
A 100 percent chance of precipitation will persist throughout the day, bringing up to 2 inches of snow and sleet by the end of today, according to Reid Hawkins, a science officer with the National Weather Service in Wilmington. Power outages could accompany freezing rain the storm is likely to bring.
Hawkins said there may be “a little bit of a lull” in today’s snow, but that the worst is still expected to come tonight.
Overnight, less than half an inch of snow is expected, along with below-freezing temperatures and winds up to 15 mph. Hawkins said there’s a chance of treacherous freezing rain tonight.
“Especially once the ice comes on, stay off the roads,” he said. “Be careful about ice on trees — they can snap.”
Although major roads have all been brined, conditions could be worse than during winter storm Leon, which hit the county on Jan. 28, bring several inches of snow and giving students four days off from school.
“It’s going to be worse than the last storm we experienced because this snow is going to … turn to ice,” Sgt. Daniel Hilburn, of the state Highway Patrol said.
Residents should stock up on anything they may need, like prescriptions, nonperishable foods and flashlights, before roads become too dangerous.
“The roads are passable at this time, however, we are anticipating later on as the temperature drops — and especially in the morning — the roads are going to be extremely hazardous as this precipitation turns from snow to ice,” Hilburn said this morning.
Many were already rushing grocery stores on Monday.
“They are taking all our bread and milk as we speak. It has been more than usual for sure, especially for a non-foodstamp day. I’d say it has been a pretty busy day,” Michael Hedgpeth, manager of Bo’s Food Store on East Fifth Street said Monday afternoon.
Snow, sleet and freezing rain should continue to alternate throughout Wednesday and into the night, when temperatures aren’t likely to climb much higher than freezing. Just more than a half an inch of accumulation is expected to build up on Wednesday.
Thursday, the chance of precipitation drops to 40 percent as temperatures rise to the low-40s. Snow, sleet and rain may continue to fall into the night, but little is expected to accumulate.
The Public Schools of Robeson County has cancelled classes today for all students and staff, along with a school board meeting that was scheduled for tonight. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will close at 12:30 p.m., and Robeson Community College closed at 11 a.m. Robeson County offices closed at 10:15 a.m.
Southeastern Medical Clinic Maxton and Southeastern Medical Clinic Red Springs will close at noon today. Southeastern Medical Clinic Gray’s Creek will close at 3 p.m.
Power companies are readying their crews in anticipation of the storm.
“We have everybody here, we are fully staffed right now …” said Deidra Locklear, community relations specialist for Lumbee River Electric. “All of our guys are on standby but we aren’t anticipating too much of a problem tonight.”
Tammie McGee, a spokesperson with Duke Energy, said residents should avoid any downed power lines and alert power companies immediately if they see one.
“Consider all lines energized as well as trees or limbs in contact with lines,” she said.
Hawkins said the rest of the state is pretty much in the same boat as Robeson.
“It’s all going to be bad,” he said, if forecasts prove correct. The western part of the state can expect the most snow, while the Interstate 95 corridor all the way down to Columbia, S.C. could see “significant freezing,” he said.
Residents should see some respite Friday and Saturday, as skies clear and temperatures rise to the low-50s.
“Hopefully it won’t stay around as long as the last one we had.”
This will be the second major snow-and-ice event in Robeson County this year, which typically dodges the frozen stuff. Leon was mostly a snow event, and didn’t cause too many major disruptions beyond closing schools, shutting down some governments and businesses and emptying the roads.