© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Your source for information and inspiration in Western North Carolina.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

As Ice Storm Approaches, Duke Energy Predicts Mass Power Outages

The National Weather Service's Forecast for North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.
The National Weather Service's Forecast for North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.
The National Weather Service's Forecast for North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.
Credit NWS - Raleigh
The National Weather Service's Forecast for North Carolina on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.

Updated at 6:50 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2021

Freezing rain is expected across central North Carolina starting overnight Wednesday. Duke Energy says the winter weather may cause nearly one quarter of its North and South Carolina customers to lose power. 

School districts across central North Carolina are delaying classes, canceling them or shifting to remote learning due to the threat of severe winter weather. Durham Public Schools and Orange County Schools are among the districts that will be closed tomorrow. Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools will conduct remote learning only.

Governor Roy Cooper has issued a state of emergency ahead of the storm. The order activates 40 members of the North Carolina National Guard to help with any tree or debris removal.

The governor's office says the state Department of Transportation has poured more than 30,000 gallons of brine on main roads throughout the state, but the agency is warning against driving in icy conditions.

The National Weather Service in Raleigh has issued a winter storm warning from the Triad to parts of the Triangle, including Durham, Guilford and Vance counties. A winter weather advisory is in effect for counties just south of I-85, including Wake and Chatham counties.

Duke Energy says nearly a quarter of its customers in North and South Carolina could lose power in the storm. Freezing rain will start overnight, switch to rain around noon tomorrow, then revert back to freezing rain tomorrow night. Duke Energy spokeswoman Meredith Archie says ice and heavy winds will likely cause widespread power outages.

"Anything over a quarter of an inch of ice accumulation is enough to bring down a tree branch, which can cause significant damage to our infrastructure and our power lines," said Archie. Duke Energy says it's bringing line workers in from out of state, and has more than 5,0000 of them ready to respond.

Forecasters expect a tenth of an inch to a quarter of an inch in the Triangle, and half an inch in the Triad. Weather.com says that a quarter-inch of ice can be disruptive to power lines, and a half-inch of ice accumulation can add 500 pounds of extra weight on power lines. National Weather Service meteorologist Nick Petro says ice accumulation could range from a tenth of an inch in Raleigh to half an inch in Greensboro.

“Half an inch of ice causes a lot of problems,” Petro said. “Imagine all the tree damage and power outages that occurred last week with three-tenths. In many places, this will be twice as much ice as we had last week.”

Petro says the Sandhills and coastal plain could get as many as three inches of rain, which could cause flooding along rivers that are already swollen from rain earlier this week.

COVID Vaccine Delays

Winter storms making their way across the U.S. will likely delay the shipment of COVID-19 vaccine to North Carolina this week. State health officials got the alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.Wake County announced it cancelled its drive-thru vaccination site at PNC Arena Thursday. The county will move all appointments scheduled for Thursday to Monday, February 22. Anyone scheduled to get the shot tomorrow who is not available to get vaccinated Monday should contact Wake's COVID-19 call center at 919-250-1515.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that the state is working with providers to minimize disruptions to vaccination clinics. North Carolina had 3,167 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday

After the freezing rain eases, river flooding and localized flash flooding is expected. Some rivers are already in flood stages, including the Cape Fear and Lumber rivers.

The expected freezing rain comes after a tornado tore through Brunswick County late Monday night, killing three people, injuring 10 people and destroying several homes.

According to the National Weather Service, it’s supposed to be sunny during the day Wednesday, but temperatures will be about 10-15 degrees colder than it was on Tuesday. Weather.com predicts temperatures dropping to as low as 29 degrees in Durham by 5 a.m. Thursday.

WUNC's Rusty Jacobs and Laura Pellicer contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio

Will Michaels started his professional radio career at WUNC.
Celeste Gracia was born and raised in deep south Texas. She’s always loved to read and write, so when she discovered journalism in high school, she knew it was for her. She graduated from the University of North Texas. She previously interned at CBS News Radio in New York and Morning Edition in Washington D.C. She constantly craves cookies & creme ice cream and enjoys singing along to Broadway musicals.
Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. He was born in Iceland, but grew up eating blue crabs and scrapple on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In addition to working at the Delmarva Daily Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, his work has also been featured at SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel, NCAA.com, Sports Illustrated and SLAM Magazine. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and has won awards from the MD-DC Press Association and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.