Icy weather not a big event


First Posted: 12/31/2009

With a snow storm that caused more than 500 wrecks still fresh in the mind, area emergency services and transportation agencies were prepared for the worst on Wednesday night.
With snow and sleet predicted to fall, John Shelton, Surry County director of Emergency Services, said they were expecting some traffic accidents and power outages.
We had ice in low lying and shady areas, said Shelton on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, there were just five wrecks reported. They were spread throughout the county, and Shelton said there were no serious injuries.
We expected we would have at least that many, Shelton remarked.
According to F.G. Doggett Water Plant, the official weather monitoring station for Mount Airy, a quarter of an inch of snow and sleet fell overnight. That was then compacted by freezing rain. Melted down, the precipitation amount was .09 inches.
Wednesday nights precipitation event brought the monthly total to 7.7 inches unofficially. Doggett employee Phillip Easter said 7 a.m. on Thursday marked the end of totals for 2009 and the beginning of totals for 2010, according to National Weather Service policy.
The average precipitation amount for December is 3.46 inches. Easter said, Its been a wet month.
Although the freezing rain event did not amount to a significant storm, Shelton said Emergency Services still had to have people on standby and prepared for whatever might come.
Its really hard to determine what the storms are going to be like, Shelton noted.
In preparation, Shelton works with the Department of Transportation to identify potential trouble areas on the highways. Emergency Services also prepares to have extra workers at the 911 call center and ensures that all of the emergency vehicles are prepared. Shelton works with local fire and rescue squads to make sure they stay in specific areas so they can reach wrecks in case of extreme weather.
Emergency Services also coordinates with power companies to see what areas are most likely to have outages. Duke Energy reported no power outages in Surry County on Thursday morning. Jason Walls, media relations specialist with Duke Energy, said he was not aware of any outages in the county through Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Regarding weather this year, Shelton said, This is the worst year weve had in many years.
He singled out the snow that blanketed the region two weekends ago. He said, Being that were not accustomed to that is the reason we have so many accidents.
Shelton said the severity of weather-related accidents also depends on the day the storm happens. He said Friday is a bad day for a snow storm to occur, because many people are on the roads preparing for the weekend and trucks are coming back to dock for the weekend.
Funding to pay for storm preparation comes from state funds and municipal funds. Shelton said in hard economic times, its hard to determine each year if they should overprepare for storms and use more funds.
Sometimes its really hard to prepare, he said.
The N.C. Department of Transportation maintains state roads, and Shelton said DOT always calculates the amount needed each year and tries to prepare for two or three large weather events.
Brandon Whitaker, district engineer for NCDOT, said the agency always finds the funds to pay for preparing and maintaining roads during severe weather events.
Its never been a problem … We have plenty of money to take care of whatever comes, said Whitaker.
Contact Meghann Evans at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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