- Associated Press - Friday, January 22, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A winter storm brought damage and death Friday across North Carolina as ice and snow coated roads and weighed down power lines.

The accumulated weight of falling ice cracked off tree limbs and ripped free wires, leaving more than 90,000 customers without power. Most where customers of Duke Energy and the trouble seemed to concentrate around the state capital in Wake, Johnston and Harnett counties.

Forecasts for more than a foot of snow accumulation in the western North Carolina mountains kept Laura Brown of Sylva at home as freezing rain topped four to six inches of snow that fell overnight.

“We probably won’t try to get out until Sunday, honestly,” she said in a telephone interview. One concern facing North Carolina households was that ice could collect on and weigh down electrical lines until they snapped, cutting off power. Brown said her home lost power Friday morning, but it was restored in about an hour.

“That’s a really good thing,” she said.

A winter storm warning went into effect early Friday and will remain in effect until 6 p.m. Saturday for central North Carolina along and west of Interstate 95. A winter weather advisory is posted for areas east of I-95. Forecasters also said wind gusts up to 30 mph are possible through Friday night, increasing the likelihood of falling trees and branches.

UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest universities canceled Friday classes because of the storm. The state’s two major airports, in Raleigh and Charlotte, said almost all flights were canceled and some airlines didn’t plan to resume service until Sunday.

A four-year-old boy became the fifth person to die in traffic accidents blamed on the winter weather since Wednesday. A pickup truck carrying his family spun out of control Friday afternoon on Interstate 77 in Iredell County near Troutman. It crashed into a tow truck working to haul out a vehicle that had run off the highway earlier, State Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Baker said.

Motorists also have died in separate wrecks since Wednesday in Johnston, Wilkes, Forsyth and Stokes counties.

Although officials warned people to stay off the roads, some said they had to leave home for essentials they hadn’t been able to buy earlier in the week.

In a west Raleigh neighborhood, a Food Lion grocery store drew a steady stream of shoppers despite the patter of freezing rain building up ice on the roads. Lisa Chapman fell to the parking lot pavement as soon as she stepped out of the car. She was unhurt but needed to collect belongings that tumbled onto the ground.

“I was just laughing about, ‘Oh, it doesn’t seem that bad out,’ and then slipped,” said Chapman, a textile professor at nearby North Carolina State University, which was closed. The shopping trip a half-mile from their home was needed despite the worsening conditions because she and her husband Chris hadn’t stocked up in advance.

“It’s more just so we have stuff to eat. We’re out of everything,” Chris Chapman said, noting the grocery had plenty of the basics such as bread and milk.

Matthew Sanders took his girlfriend’s mother shopping after deciding the drive to his auto-repair shop 30 miles away in Smithfield would only be more dangerous later in the day if he started turning wrenches. He knew he was turning away business because customers were calling.

“It’s getting worse now. It’s coming down,” Sanders said, a plastic bag of groceries in one hand and a hefty tub of liquid detergent in the other.


Associated Press writers Gary D. Robertson and Martha Waggoner contributed to this story.


Follow Emery P. Dalesio at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio

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