Area braces for second snow blast

By William F. West

The Daily Advance

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Albemarle residents began bracing Monday for a second blast of winter weather in a week — one that forecasters said could dump up to 10 inches of snow on the region today and Wednesday.

Snow was expected to start falling across the area around mid-morning today but not begin accumulating until around 6 p.m., Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Management Coordinator Christy Saunders said Monday. Snow was expected to continue falling overnight into early Wednesday morning, she said.

The National Weather Service is estimating the total accumulation of snowfall in the Elizabeth

City area will be between five and 10 inches. The region will remain under a winter storm warning from 10 a.m. today to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Temperatures were expected to spiral down to 24 degrees, but factoring in the wind chill, the low tonight will feel even colder — zero to 10 degrees, Saunders said.

Wind gusts will be 20 to 30 mph, which could pose a problem for motorists. The blowing snow may lead to poor visibility and could cause snow to blow back onto roads that have already been cleared, Saunders said.

Driving at night before Friday could be hazardous. Temperatures are not expected to climb above freezing before Thursday afternoon. However, any snow that melts Thursday could refreeze that night. Residents should not expect any significant melting of snow until Friday, Saunders said.

The impending snow storm led a number of area school districts to schedule the early release of students today.

The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools plan to release students two hours early, while the Currituck and Perquimans County Schools plan to release most students at 12:30 p.m. All after-school activities today were either canceled or rescheduled.

Mid-Atlantic Christian University also announced plans to cancel classes and all campus activities after 3:30 p.m. today. The campus will be closed on Wednesday, but the dining hall will be open and offer limited service. Brunch and supper will be served Wednesday.

Power companies that serve thousands of customers in the region were gearing up for the storm.

Chris Powell, spokesman for the Hertford-based Albemarle Electric Membership Corp., said the electric cooperative was busy Tuesday preparing its six bucket trucks, three line trucks and other vehicles for use today responding to potential power outages. All 34 of AEMC’s employees are on standby, Powell said.

Besides falling limbs and trees, EMC’s main concern from the storm is ice forming on power lines, Powell said.

EMC, which serves customers in Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden and Chowan counties, is urging them to shut off their heating system if they lose power and wait at least an hour before trying to turn it back on. That’s because following an outage, power needs to be brought back on gradually, a few customers at a time, to lower the overall demand on the electric system, Powell said.

Dominion N.C. Power spokeswoman Bonita Harris said the snowfall is not her company’s biggest concern.

“Ice and wind are our biggest concerns,” she said.

Dangerous road conditions can slow down Dominion crews’ ability to get to sites where repairs are needed following power outages, Harris said. High energy usage can also slow down restoration of power.

“So we encourage everyone to use energy wisely, which is always a good idea anyway,” she said.

Greater Albemarle Area Red Cross Chief Executive Officer Carolyn Self said her agency is mobilizing volunteers, putting them on standby ahead of the storm. The Red Cross will open an emergency shelter if one’s requested by emergency management officials, Self said.

Albemarle Hospital spokesman Patrick Detwiler said the hospital plans to be fully staffed with clinical personnel today, although some support departments may elect to work with reduced staff levels until after the storm.

Elizabeth City police Lt. Mike Boone said the department is making sure all police vehicles are fueled and ready for the storm. Over in Camden, Sheriff Tony Perry said his department was readying four-wheel drive vehicles to respond to calls. He also has a five-ton military all-wheel drive vehicle ready if the snowfall is really heavy, he said.

Boone advised residents to stock up on food and other supplies prior to the arrival of today’s storm. He also urged residents to stay home if at all possible. Those who must drive during or after the storm should use extreme caution, he said.

Area residents were taking Boone’s advice to heart.

Food Lion’s parking lot was bustling Monday afternoon, as most shoppers’ carts contained gallons or cases of bottled water, bottled drinks, bread and canned goods.

Tameika Evins said she was shopping with her grandmother in preparation for the storm, noting she lives with her grandmother’s 97-year-old sister.

Evins said she hopes the power at her residence doesn’t go out, “but if it does, we’ll be prepared.”

Dewanna Williams was also stocking up ahead of the storm.

“(I’m getting mostly) nonperishable stuff, so I can make chili,” she said, gesturing to the canned items in her cart.

Christine Crabtree, who lives in Camden, said she was out getting essentials Monday to avoid driving to Elizabeth City Tuesday in the snow.

“I was out earlier, and it was really crowded,” she said.

Today’s storm will bring much more snow than the storm that began the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Slightly more than two-tenths of an inch of rain fell that day, followed by 2.8 inches of snow flurries and a hard freeze.