© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Charlotte Area

Winter Storm Clogs Traffic, Causes Some Power Outages In Charlotte Area

Snow and ice are ensnarling traffic, cancelling flights and causing some power outages in the Charlotte area.

John Tomko is a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in South Carolina.

“Before this all wraps up tomorrow at lunchtime, storm total snow around seven inches in the Charlotte area," he said, "a little higher to the north and west.”

WFAE's Michael Tomsic has this update on the conditions:

Let's start with traffic – what are the roads like?

Ice is a serious problem. There are large patches of it on I-277, and that's led to multiple wrecks and bumper-to-bumper traffic. That traffic stretches east of the city on Independence Boulevard, too, where there have been more accidents.

On I-85, traffic is slow but is moving along, with the worst stretch on I-85 north of Harris Boulevard. I-485 is nasty in some stretches near I-85 and out by Idlewild Road.  

On I-77, the stretch closest to uptown is in rough condition. But it gets better heading toward Huntersville and then south of the Billy Graham Parkway.

Some of the secondary roads have lighter traffic, but ice can still be a problem.

And what are emergency crews doing about it?

I just talked to Jen Thompson, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. She says they put down a ton of salt before the storm came. But now that it's here and traffic is nasty, the emergency crews are stuck in it, too.

"We do have crews out there," she said. "Unfortunately, we have a lot of other cars out there with us, and so we're not able to go at a speed where we can effectively plow in some areas. We are plowing where we can. But where there's a lot of traffic, we have to wait for that to subside."

Thompson says emergency crews plan to do a lot of work overnight – plowing through snow and ice, and salting the roads again. But the storm will continue overnight and through tomorrow, so she says it may take until the weekend to get the roads in much better shape.    

How much of a problem have power outages been so far?

Not too bad in our area. There are currently around 300 outages in the central and western parts of the Carolinas. Iredell County has about 50 outages, and Mecklenburg County has around 20. Most of the surrounding counties have fewer.

Power outages have been a much bigger problem in the southeastern swath of the Carolinas – more than 200,000 customers are without power, with the bulk of those living in counties near the coast.   

What's the storm doing to the Charlotte airport?

It's still open, but just over half its flights have been canceled. The roads around the airport are in bad shape, as you'd imagine. And about 80 passengers were stuck in the terminal overnight last night because of flight cancellations.

And how long can we expect these conditions to stick around?

That's a bit of a moving target. What we do know is there's another round of heavy snow in the forecast for tomorrow morning. Then it's just a question of handling the ice – the temps won't rise much above freezing until Friday.