ASHEVILLE — A winter storm that dropped a foot of snow in parts of western North Carolina left thousands of residents without power and caused the roof of a local college to collapse, but it also created a boon of fun for families participating in snowball fights and sledding.
The remnants of the storm will make travel risky on January 18, however, especially on secondary roads in the mountains. North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman David Uchiyama said the department had 227 trucks and 29 graders during and after the storm, depositing 7,070 tons of salt and 425 tons of a salt-sand mixture. in the 17 westernmost counties.
“It’s going to be a while before everything is completely clear, but without worries,” Uchiyama said.
Freeze-thaw conditions will continue on Jan. 18, making the morning commute dangerous in places, he said. Black ice will be of particular concern.
For the most up-to-date road conditions, visit drivec.gov.
The only outright road closure Uchiyama was aware of was US 276 along the Davidson River in Transylvania County. The road was closed as a precaution, he said.
Winds blowing up to 50 mph followed the January 16 winter storm, creating dangerous conditions and complicating power restoration efforts.
Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton said as of 4 p.m. Jan. 17, there were about 14,700 outages in North Carolina.
“Most of the restoration should be complete (January 17),” Norton said by email. “Some in Jackson, Macon and Swain, and a handful of the more extreme sites, may linger until (January 18) – we have sent additional teams to these problem areas.”
Duke also reached out to all of the last remaining customers via email with a status update, “and we greatly appreciate our customers’ patience…” Norton added.
For western North Carolina, Norton offered this county-by-county update for outages as of 4 p.m. on January 17:
• Buncombe County: 133.
• Haywood County: 0.
• Henderson County: 92.
• Jackson County: 846.
• County of Macon: 687.
• Polk County: 1.
• County of Rutherford: 1.
• Swain County: 266.
• County of Transylvania: 66.
The crews were out by sunrise Jan. 17, Norton said.
High winds hadn’t caused any problems by mid-morning, but Duke planned to watch them throughout the day. High temperatures only reached the mid-30s on January 17, but warmer weather was predicted for January 18, with highs in the Asheville area reaching 44 degrees, with light winds.
Norton said the hardest hit place in the mountains was the Nantahala area of Swain County, “and we have an army of linemen on the ground there (January 17).
“We have a lot of manpower and equipment, the difficulty is getting to some places with difficult terrain,” Norton said. “We appreciate our customers’ patience – please know that we are working to get back to you as quickly as possible.”
Roof collapse at Brevard College
At Brevard College in Transylvania County, spokeswoman Christie Cauble said heavy snowfall caused part of the roof of the Jones Hall building to collapse. The incident happened around 3:15 p.m. on January 16.
“Jones Hall Resident Advisors responded immediately, and all students were safely evacuated and accommodated, with no injuries reported,” Cauble said in a news release.
In a Jan. 17 interview, Cauble said the college has housed 40 students in local hotels and another 20 to 25 are staying on campus with friends. Another 15 to 20 were still at home when the incident happened.
“Some of these students left the building in T-shirts and shorts,” Cauble said. “It was an unexpected excitement that we didn’t want.”
Fire department crews escorted the students into the building on January 17 two at a time to retrieve their belongings. The college was working to place students staying in hotels in other accommodations on campus, Cauble said.
A building inspector and emergency response teams were on site Jan. 16, along with the college management team, as they continued to assess the building, Cauble said. An engineer will be on site Jan. 18 to assess the building, which was built in the mid-20th century, Cauble added.
Snowfall totals ranged from 5 to 12 inches
National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Krentz said total snowfall ranged from 5 to 12 inches in the mountainous region, followed by gusty winds on January 17 that pushed the 50 mph mark. This led to wind chills of around 20 degrees in the French Broad River Valley and minus 5 to 10 degrees.
The Jan. 16 blizzard distributed a deep blanket of powdery snow across the mountains, with the heaviest accumulations west and south of Asheville, Krentz said.
Here is an overview of the total snowfall in the region:
• Asheville: Between 5 and 7.5-8 inches.
• West Asheville: 8 inches.
• Fletcher: 8-9 inches.
• Hendersonville: 10-12 inches.
• Black Mountain/Marion: 5-6 inches.
• Waynesville: 11 inches.
• Canton: 12 inches.
• Beech Mountain: 8 inches.
• Blowing Rock: 11 inches.
• Mount Mitchell: 15-16 inches.
• Newland: 8.5 inches.
More snow is possible as the week progresses. The National Weather Service forecast calls for a slight chance of snow between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Jan. 19, then a chance of rain. The daily high will be near 49.
Thursday brings a 30% chance of snow before 9 a.m., with a high for the day reaching 38. Friday brings a 30% chance of flurries after 2 p.m., with a high near 30.
Airport still open but many delays
Asheville Regional Airport remained open during the storm, spokeswoman Tina Kinsey said, but many flights were delayed or canceled.
“We had our snow operations all weekend, and they just ceased operations,” Kinsey said at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 17. “The airport has remained open and is ready for arriving and departing flights.”
But, Kinsey said, big storms like this have a major domino effect on flight schedules, and arrival/departure charts have shown a mix of cancellations, delays and on-time flights for the rest of January 17, she said.
The best strategy is to check with your airline for your individual flight. Kinsey recommends downloading the airline’s app or signing up for SMS.
Airport information is available at flyavl.com.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Snow roundup: Dicey switches on tap in WNC, but roads are improving