Forecast changes to include sleet; locals unfazed by weather report

By Abbi Overfelt By Mary Katherine Murphy

January 28, 2014

LAURINBURG — Though the forecast for Scotland County now calls for more sleet than snow, meteorologists say there will be enough wintry precipitation to coat the roads and make traveling a headache for anyone who has to be out early Wednesday morning.

“The total may not be as deep, but a mess to drive in and just be a general pain to several people,” said Jonathan Blaes, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

The service on Monday had called for a nearly 24-hour snowfall with an accumulation of at least 4 inches, but Blaes said an unexpected influx of warm weather from the coast has changed today’s predictions to a wintry mix that will include on-and-off periods of snowfall mixed with sleet, tiny ice pellets that occur when it’s “extra cold.”

“Very small changes in the temperature tend to have big changes on what people see, how much they have to shovel and what they have to drive in,” Blaes said. “Accumulations will vary, but 2-4 inches can be expected. It’s variable depending on how much sleet falls.”

Blaes said sleet should begin to fall around 3 p.m., and snow should fall steadily from 6-10 p.m. with periods of sleet mixed in. The ground should be covered in white by nightfall, he said, and residents will wake up to a slushy mess on Wednesday.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation applied a salt mixture known as brine to major roads on Monday, but Blaes said drivers shouldn’t expect the roads to be clear.

Following Monday’s daunting forecast, the shelves at local grocery stores were unusually sparse on Tuesday morning as shoppers fulfilled the Southern stereotype and stocked up on bread and eggs.

Independent bread distributor Kevin Radford scrolled through photos he had taken on his phone of “wiped out” store aisles as he stacked loaves of bread on empty shelves in Laurinburg’s Food Lion, noting that the $4,000 in merchandise he had stocked on Monday in stores like Harris Teeter, Walmart, and Piggly Wiggly, had been cleaned out in less than 24 hours.

“I had like a $4,500 load today and every bit of it went on the shelves,” said Radford. “It’s been crazy, but I guess they’re getting prepared.”

However, those shopping a few hours before the forecasted arrival of snow and sleet seemed unconcerned about the kind of weather Scotland County sees once every few winters.

“I still don’t think it’s going to snow,” said Madison Berry of Gibson. “In the past three years, it hasn’t snowed.”

As the two strolled through the aisles at Walmart, Berry’s mother Tabitha said that she will welcome a few inches of snow.

“I don’t think it’s going to be too bad — I’m actually looking forward to some snow,” she said. “I think we’re going to get a little bit, but I’m not looking for 8 inches.” - Tabitha Berry

To one Washington, D.C. native picking up milk at Food Lion, a few inches of snow barely merited notice.

“It’s going to be 60 on Friday, so why worry about it,” she said. “It doesn’t stay long. I like the snow here because it’ll snow and then it’ll be gone. It doesn’t hang around, it doesn’t get dirty. As long as you don’t have to go out and do things, it’s not bad.”

Students at Scotland County schools, Richmond Community College and St. Andrews University were all released early today, and RCC will be closed to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday. Scotland County Parks and Recreation have canceled today’s basketball games, and Scotland High School’s wrestling and basketball matches against Richmond County have been moved to Thursday.

Scotland Health Care System announced Tuesday that Scotland Memorial Hospital’s outpatient services, such as the laboratory, rehabilitation services, wound center and imaging services would be close at noon today and will not reopen until Thursday. Following the same schedule will be nine clinics affiliated with the hospital system, including Harris Family Practice, Scotland Surgical, Scotland Women’s Care and Scotland Urgent Care and Occupational Health in Laurinburg; Maxton Family Practice Center in Maxton; Marlboro Ob/Gyn and Scotland Health Care Center in Bennettsville, S.C. and Wagram Family Practice in Wagram.

Emergency Services are unaffected and Scotland Urgent Care and Occupational Health may reopen earlier than Thursday if weather permits. For questions, call the hospital’s main line at 910-291-7000.

Abbi Overfelt can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 12. Follow her on Twitter @aoinscotco. Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17.