Dangerous roads lurk; many folks play during day off - | WBTV Charlotte

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Dangerous roads lurk; many folks play during day off

This SUV overturned in Matthews after it was driven "too fast for conditions" on Monday morning, police said. This SUV overturned in Matthews after it was driven "too fast for conditions" on Monday morning, police said.
This SUV wreck on I-77 Monday morning appears to be due to the icy roads. This SUV wreck on I-77 Monday morning appears to be due to the icy roads.
The totals of snow and ice from the storm. The totals of snow and ice from the storm.
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - As the Charlotte region tried to put a weekend of snow, ice and sleet storm behind it, the situation became clear: the ice wasn't going away quickly even though some parts of the Piedmont were seeing clearing streets and many folks decided to play in the remaining snow.

As recent as 10 a.m., a sports utility vehicle ran down an embankment on I-77 between W.T. Harris Boulevard and I-485.  Witnesses told WBTV the driver was traveling about 60 mph before she lost control.

Just overnight Sunday into Monday, there were many serious wrecks including one in Matthews in which an SUV overturned Monday morning near a shopping center.  Also at 3 am Monday, a Honda Civic crashed into the concrete barrier wall on the inner loop near 12th Street in Charlotte.  Around 2 am Monday, a Ford F-150 hit an icy patch and flipped over a guardrail and into a woods on Tyvola Road near Park Road.

And, the effects of the event that caused dozens of wrecks -- including two fatalities and a spectacular crash on I-77 -- could linger in many counties north and west of Charlotte for days.

Also during the weekend, two other men died from weather-related incidents including a man in Charlotte who had a heart attack shoveling snow and another who fell in the snow in Gastonia and later died.

Another shorter, smaller weather event could also hit early Tuesday, forecasters said. (Read related story)

As temperatures began to plummet Sunday night, the icy situation got even worse.  Temperatures early Sunday and Monday were so cold even the salt was spread on many roads was largely ineffective -- and will be until sometime Monday afternoon.

The situation was already bad by Saturday morning, with two deaths being reported in the area from two separate vehicle crashes on slick roads. Many children were out of school on Monday with nearly all school systems in the WBTV viewing area deciding to cancel school.

After the main precipitation even early Saturday morning, roads got worse as weekend wore on -- as more people ventured out and as temperatures continued to fall. In addition to the two fatal wrecks overnight, one serious wreck was reported in Charlotte late Saturday morning and a serious dramatic crash happened on I-77 near Lake Norman as a truck dangled from the road. (Read the story)

Accidents then continued into the night, with even the interstates having icy patches on them.  Within minutes of each other cars on 77 and 277 near uptown Charlotte apparently lost control on the ice.  Neither driver appeared seriously hurt.

Paramedics in Mecklenburg reported responding to 54 crashes between midnight and Saturday evening.

A wreck late Saturday morning at Wilkinson Blvd. and Tuckaseegee Road involving a snow-plow truck sent 5 people to the hospital  -- one with possible life-threatening injuries.

The snow was extremely heavy north and west of Charlotte -- and roads throughout the region were nearly impassible. WBTV reporter Kristen Hampton counted 18 ditched cars along U.S. 321 on a 10 mile drive south of Hickory just after noon Saturday.

A man died in a wreck early Saturday morning that might have been caused by icy roads on Nations Ford Road in Charlotte, police said. (Read full story)  Another person died in a wreck in Rowan County during bad weather conditions on Saturday morning (Read full story

On Monday, CMPD officers were called to investigate a Mustang in which someone reported was in the woods near the I-77/I-85 interchange.  Officials think the driver ran off the road sometime this weekend during the storm.  The driver was not in the car police said.

"The primary roads are bad, but driveable by a careful driver. There are a few areas of concentrated ice around the county, and the bridges and overpasses are receiving special attention by City Services," said Robert Fey, CMPD spokesperson. "Secondary roads are deceptively slippery, and we will likely experience more issues on side roads as the temperature continues to drop during the morning. There were 6 PI accidents (1 fatality) and 15 PD accidents between midnight and 5:45 a.m. Not too bad considering the conditions."

The National Weather Service had been forecasting just under 4 inches of snow/sleet for Center City Charlotte. That now appears to have been greatly overblown.

Many churches canceled services for Sunday morning.

Click here for information about WBTV's school, business and weather closing codes.

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Officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Charlotte Department of Transportation spoke with the media about what they were doing to prepare in advance of the winter storm.  
DOT trucks were out as early as 9 a.m. Friday putting a salt-brine mixture on Charlotte roads.  More crews came back in at 7 p.m. Friday and began working round the clock in shifts.  Officials say if you see any icy patches on the road in Mecklenburg County, call 311.  They urged people to stay home and off the roads as much as possible this weekend.

NCDOT crews were busy Thursday spreading the salt-brine mixture on primary roads and I-485.  Work crews focused their attention Friday on I-77 and I-85 in Mecklenburg County.    

When we get freezing rain, the salt-brine helps form a protective layer on the asphalt.  If it starts out as rain, the salt-brine will be fine for a while, but it will eventually wash away if it stays rainy for a long time, NCDOT Spokeswoman Jen Thompson said.  In the case of this storm, the precipitation started as snow in most of our area.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said people should only call 911 for emergency purposes only.  You should also call 911 to report downed power lines, trees or power poles blocking roadways. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg 311 system will be fully operational for non emergency related calls.

For power outages, Duke Energy customers should call, 1-800-POWERON or 1-866-4APAGON for Spanish speaking customers.

Mecklenburg EMS Agency had additional crews working this weekend.  All Medic trucks are equipped with chains to help them maneuver safely through snow, sleet or icy road conditions.

Since Medic crews will be out working accidents, they urge people driving on the roadways to slow down and give police, fire or Medic workers lots of room to work safely. 

If you must be out on the roads driving, the NCDOT offers the following tips.

  • Clear windows and mirrors;
  • Reduce speed and leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles;
  • Bridges and overpasses accumulate ice first. Approach them with extreme caution and do not apply your brakes while on the bridge;
  • If you begin to slide, take your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not apply the brakes as that will cause further loss of control of the car;
  • Come to a complete stop or yield the right of way when approaching an intersection where traffic lights are out. Treat this scenario as a four-way stop; and
  • If you have a cellular phone, take it with you; you can contact the Highway Patrol statewide by calling HP (*47) or call the county emergency center by dialing 911.

For real-time information on road conditions, click here for the NCDOT Traveler Information Management System Web site or call 511, the state's free travel information line. NCDOT also provides alerts about road conditions on Twitter. Click here to access them.

* * *

Officials say most home heating fires occur in December, January and February.  According to the North Carolina Department of Insurance, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 64,100 reported U.S. home structure fires in 2006.

This translates to 540 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $943 million in direct property damage. Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third of the home heating fires and three-fourths of the deaths from home heating fires in 2006.

Here are some general heating safety tips:

  • All heaters need space. Keep things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
  • Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Plug power cords only into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.
  • Never bring in a charcoal or gas grill or other fuel-burning equipment inside to heat your home, they can produce carbon monoxide.
  • Never use an oven to heat your home.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly.

Fuel Burning Space Heaters

  • Always use the proper fuel as specified by the manufacturer.
  • When refueling, allow the appliance to cool and refuel outside or in a well-ventilated area.
  • When using the heater, open a window to ensure adequate venting.

Wood-burning Stoves and Fireplaces

  • Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood.
  • Use artificial logs according to manufacturer's recommendations.

Often called a silent killer, CO is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels, such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane, burn incompletely. During a power outage, we often see in increase in incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning. In 2005, municipal fire departments nationwide responded to an estimated 61,100 carbon monoxide incidents. January and December were the peak months for CO incidents and the peak time of day was between 6 and 10 p.m.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips and Facts

  • CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home so when one sounds, they all sound.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • Early symptoms of CO poisoning are nausea, headache and flu-like symptoms. Prolonged exposure can lead to brain damage and even death.

(Above statistics provided by the National Fire Protection Association)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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