Authorities urge residents to stay off roads

By Rachel McAuley

February 12, 2014

LAURINBURG — The stakes are high for Scotland County drivers attempting to travel among winter’s stormy gusts, and authorities have issued recommendations for residents to stay home and stay safe.

“We’re worried about black ice, fallen tree limbs that can lead to power line failures,” said Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin Williams. “We’re not used to this in this region.”

Williams said that there have been “a couple of minor accidents in the county” so far, with vehicles sliding off the side of the road. Williams cautioned that people should travel at slow speeds on the roads, which weather conditions have made dangerous.

“Be cautious,” Williams said. “Be careful.”

“We have to make sure to check on our homeless community,” he added. “We do have folks that are homeless. We may not have many but we do have a few.”

Williams did not yet know of any fallen trees or power outages. The N.C. Highway Patrol said that so far troops have responded to two wrecks in the county.

“Everyone get home, stay home, and stay off the roads,” said a highway patrol spokesperson. “The roads are getting slick and dangerous. Get off the roads and get home as soon as possible unless it’s absolutely necessary to go back out.”

Meanwhile, N.C. assistance patrol officials have made arrangements to work together in helping drivers who will be traveling along Interstate 95 during the storm.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Blaes, ice accumulation is likely to be aided by existent snow from Tuesday and Wednesday morning, increasing the likelihood of power outages.

“Think of a pine tree, usually any freezing rain or ice would just slide through the needles, but once you’ve got that layer of snow on first, branches are likely to become heavy and bend or break,” said Blaes. “We don’t want to overplay it and make it sound like the end of the world, but this is going to be one of those memorable storms that happens every 10 or 15 years or so.”

Though the majority of Scotland County residents will ride out the storm inside their homes, the possibility of electrical failure brings dangers of its own. According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February.

The association advises that flammable objects — and children — should be kept at least three feet away from heating equipment, including furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves, or portable space heaters. Also, those using fuel burning space heaters should be sure to use the correct type of fuel.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, only 1-K grade kerosene should be used in kerosene heaters, never gasoline. The commission also advises that heaters should never be refueled indoors or while hot or in use. If uncontrolled flaming occurs, do not attempt to move or carry the heater.

If county residents do lose electricity as a result of falling ice, they should use common sense to weather the storm safely.

“Some people get impatient and try to do really silly things to stay warm, like start fires in their home,” said Blaes. “People just need to be safe and use good judgement.”

Rachel McAuley can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 15. Follow her on Twitter @rachelmcauley1.