Snow blankets Scotland County; roads expected to thaw out today

By Abbi Overfelt By Mary Katherine Murphy

January 29, 2014

LAURINBURG — Residents of Laurinburg and Scotland County were greeted Wednesday morning with a fluffy white blanket just thick enough to coat sidewalks, porches and grass — and leave the roads slick enough to make an early morning commute dangerous.

Road crews were working early to clear paths on often-traveled roads around Laurinburg, and Main Street was fairly clear by 10 a.m. No wrecks were reported by this newspaper’s press time, with Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin Williams reporting that most people were staying in.

Meteorologist Barrett Smith, with the National Weather Service, said the service’s Raleigh office had reports of 3 inches of snow in Wagram, while Richmond County reported 2-3 inches and Sampson County saw as much as 5 inches.

While some were still forced to make the drive to work, others took advantage of local delays or closings to leave their car parked in their driveway and go out on foot to gallivant in the rarely-seen precipitation that, after several false alarms, finally kept its promise to appear.

For two men working to blow and plow snow from the parking lot of BB&T on Church and South Main streets, coming to work meant a treacherous trek down U.S. 74, which early Wednesday was clear in only one lane.

“It was rough on 74; it was real slick,” said Justin Burgess, who drove from Oakboro in Stanly County, yet welcomed the snow despite its inconvenience. “It gives you something to do in the wintertime when grass isn’t growing. We didn’t get as much as they did down here. I was hoping we’d get more back home, but we didn’t.”

Mail carrier James Brown made sure that the weather would not disrupt the usual delivery of letters, bills, and packages on Wednesday, dodging the odd snowball as he worked a route in the Washington Park area.

“I guess the kids are out there throwing their little snowballs and having fun,” he said. “It’s Laurinburg, we never get snow, and we need something to get excited about. It’s cold and I’m layered up, but I guess we’ve got to go by the slogan: neither rain, sleet, hail, nor snow…”

Slick roads did not prevent Norwood Wooten from taking to the outdoors on Wednesday. The retired wildlife officer camped in his minivan near the St. Andrews University Lake, reading an advertising circular as he waited for temperatures to rise enough for a few hours of fishing.

“I’m glad to see the snow, and I’m glad to see it’s over,” he said. “I come out here on a regular basis, I just love the outdoors. I can’t be indoors during the daytime, no matter what the weather is.”

Don Austin of Maxton, using a Main Street ATM on Wednesday morning, said he expects this season’s unusually severe winter weather to bode ill for the summer’s mosquito population. He also expressed appreciation for the state of Laurinburg’s roads.

“It’s bad in Maxton roads-wise but over here it’s beautiful,” said Austin. “In Maxton it’s pure ice on the road. I love snow, though. I like it when all of it’s white, with no footsteps in the yard.”

Some patches of snow exposed to sunlight were beginning to melt, but Smith said roads wouldn’t be clear anytime soon.

“Today temperatures aren’t going to get above 30 degrees and tonight’s temperatures are going to fall back into the teens,” Smith said Wednesday morning. “Concerns will remain where snow hasn’t melted or areas where snow has melted but the roads remain wet.”

Scotland County Schools announced at about 1 p.m. Wednesday that schools and district offices would remain closed today for students, faculty and staff. The schools were closed Wednesday and students were released early on Tuesday.

St. Andrews University and Richmond Community College were both closed on Wednesday for students, faculty and staff. No announcements had been made by presstime about Thursday’s classes at St. Andrews or Richmond Community College.

Outpatient services at Scotland Memorial Hospital closed at noon on Tuesday and were set to reopen at 10 a.m. today, as was Scotland Urgent Care Center and Occupational Health.

The following clinics affiliated with the hospital were also closed on Wednesday, and were expected to reopen at noon today: 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.

The offices of the Chamber of Commerce were closed Wednesday, as were many businesses on Main Street. Wednesday night services were canceled at some churches, including East Laurinburg Church of God.

Scotland County Parks and Recreation canceled its basketball games set for Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. District cases set to be heard Wednesday in Scotland County court were postponed, as were some Superior Court cases. Defendants were urged to contact their legal representation for further information.

Smith said today’s temperatures will rise to the mid-30s, and the snow would be mostly gone by Friday, when temperatures are expected to be in the 50s.

The last time Scotland County had a measurable amount of snow was last February, Smith said.

All across North Carolina, residents awoke to snow and bone-chilling cold. Total accumulations ranged from an inch or two in the Piedmont to nearly six inches east of Interstate 95. However, in many places in Eastern North Carolina those totals included sleet and ice.

Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, a move that gives the state access to federal emergency funds.

The state fared far better than areas further south, especially in Atlanta — which was drastically unprepared to handle the inches they got.

Students in the Georgia capital on Tuesday night camped out with teachers in school gyms or on buses and commuters abandoned cars along the highway to seek shelter in churches, fire stations and even grocery stores.

Jackknifed 18-wheelers littered Interstate 65 in central Alabama. Ice shut down bridges on Florida’s panhandle and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, one of the world’s longest spans, in Louisiana. Some commuters pleaded for help via cellphones while still holed up in their cars, while others trudged miles home, abandoning their vehicles outright.

Heroes also had their day. Police in suburban Atlanta say one of their own helped assist the safe delivery of a baby girl on a gridlocked interstate Tuesday afternoon after snow and ice brought traffic to a crawl.

Meanwhile, people took to social media such as Facebook to appeal for overnight shelter — or to offer guest rooms, fire stations, churches and park gymnasiums to those needing a warm place to stay after spending hours in their cars.

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.