LUMBERTON —Robeson County could slide into some wintry weather late Friday night and motorists are being told to watch out for road hazards such as black ice.
“There’s going to be a significant shot of cold air moving into the Carolinas,” said Steven Pfaff of the National Weather Service. “The front that’s approaching will throw moisture in there. There will be parts of the Carolinas that have an increased risk of wintry weather such as snow, sleet, freezing rain and black ice.”
According to the National Weather Service, there is a 60 percent chance of precipitation in Robeson County on Friday, with temperatures in the afternoon in the high-30s and the possibility of sleet or snow. Whatever falls won’t be around long, as highs on Saturday will bump the 60s and the day will be sunny.
“If there is snow or sleet, there shouldn’t be too much,” Pfaff said. “If it’s freezing rain, that’s a different story. It doesn’t take a lot to create a very problematic situation.”
Charles Britt, the interim assistant county manager and Emergency Services director, said local officials are keeping an eye on the skies.
“The only thing we are doing right now is monitoring it,” Britt said. “Depending on what we hear, we will meet with department managers and have people on standby to clean up roads, parking lots and steps to city buildings. We have a Public Works department that has the ability to help us out as much as possible.”
Gene McKethan, county maintenance engineer with the state Department of Transportation, said crews are salt-brining Interstate 95 and U.S. 74 and will also target N.C. 211, N.C. 41, bridges and all major routes throughout the county.
“We can’t spray when the temperature gets below 26 degrees,” McKethan said Wednesday. “We will run as late into the night as possible. Hopefully we will have all paved roads completed by the end of the business day tomorrow. Once we get the primary routes completed, we will go to secondary smaller roads. Our emphasis has to be on where the high volume of commuters will be and then we work our way to the smaller volume roads.
“Salt will only be used if it snows or there is a heavy onset of ice. We can’t salt before a storm because it just bounces off the road or the cars push it off the pavement. It also has a negative impact on the environment, which is why we try to avoid using it.”
According to Pfaff, overpasses, bridges and exposed roadways are at an increased risk.
“Those surfaces freeze faster than typical roadways,” Pfaff said. “If a winter weather advisory is issued, those are areas that should be avoided. Find an alternate route if you must travel.”
Britt thinks Robeson County will duck the worst of the system, which is expected to cause more problems in the northwestern and central areas of the state, according to the National Weather Service.
“I don’t think its going to be a major event,” Britt said, “but we may have some black ice which is very dangerous. We’ll see how it all works out.”
Sgt. Daniel Hilburn of the state Highway Patrol said that if a major storm approaches, troopers will step up patrols.
“We are going to pay attention to the storm and pay even closer attention to interstate corridors,” Hilburn said. “We will also pay attention to broken-down vehicles.”
According to Britt, one of the biggest threats during inclement weather is people using portable heating sources.
“They need to be careful,” Britt said. “If they are using those portable heating sources, they must have proper ventilation and leave them 18 inches from flammable surfaces. Stay inside and stay warm. People should stay off the roadways unless it is a dire emergency.”