LUMBERTON — Here we go again.
Nearly two weeks after being blanketed in snow and sleet, Robeson County is again in the sights of a winter storm, but this one could be less a roll in the snow and more of a pain as the forecast calls for a mostly ice event.
“This looks like it could be a significant icing event along the I-95 corridor,” said Josh Weiss, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Southeast North Carolina beginning Tuesday at 10 a.m. with the worst conditions coming on Tuesday night. The advisory ends at 3 p.m. on Thursday. The warning is an upgrade from a winter storm watch issued this morning.
The Public Schools of Robeson County has cancelled its events for Tuesday night, including its regular board meeting, but a decision regarding Tuesday classes will be made after 3 a.m., when light snow is expected to start falling. If students and staff go in on schedule Tuesday, they will be released at 11:30 a.m.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will open on schedule tomorrow. The school is expected to make another announcement Tuesday at 7 a.m. Robeson Community College will close at 1 p.m. Tuesday for all students and staff.
Weiss said ice accumulation — and in turn power outages — are “definitely possible” during the three-day event. Forecasters are currently expecting 2 to 4 inches of snow to accumulate — a slight increase from this morning’s predictions — with another quarter of an inch of freezing rain on top of that.
Duke Energy is checking all of its equipment in preparation for the storm. Spokesperson Tammie McGee said the company will know a lot more on Tuesday as to how big a threat the storm poses to its power lines.
“As a general rule, power lines are less affected by snow or sleet. We see more problems when ice accumulates on lines or nearby trees and limbs,” McGee said.
Crews with the Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation are preparing for the worst.
“This one has a little bit more concern because they’re predicting more ice than the last storm we had,” Walter White, director of Marketing and Economic Development said.
White said he “can’t emphasize enough” how important it is to stay away from downed power lines.
“First, stay away from it, do not touch it and secondly, call us,” he said.
Weiss said residents should be prepared in case they are stuck inside for a couple of days. He suggested people make sure they have plenty of working flashlights on hand and stock up on non-perishable foods.
That’s just what Robesonians were doing on Monday afternoon.
“They are taking all our bread and milk as we speak. It has been more than usual for sure, especially for a non-foodstamp day. I’d say it has been a pretty busy day,” said Michael Hedgpeth, manager of Bo’s Food Store on East Fifth Street. “I am sure they will wipe up what we have on the shelf by late this evening, but we will be stocked back up by tomorrow morning.”
Residents could see some light snow or sleet as early as 3 a.m. on Tuesday, along with temperatures in the low-30s, although no accumulation is expected tonight.
Tuesday will remain chilly. An 80 percent chance of sleet and snow, mainly before 3 p.m., could amount to as much as 3 inches of accumulation by the end of the day.
Chilly temperatures and precipitation should continue through Tuesday night, with rain, snow, freezing rain and sleet alternating into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“Travel could become very, very treacherous Tuesday evening through Thursday,” Weiss said.
More than 60 crew members and 20 trucks from the state Department of Transportation are brining major thoroughfares including Interstate 95 and all state and federal highways in Robeson County, and should have them all covered by the end of today, spokesperson Hollie Allen said.
“All of it’s going to hinge on where the storm comes in at,” said Sgt. Daniel Hilburn of the state Highway Patrol. “We’re just going to ask people to pay attention to the weather, and if we do experience the storm, people should try to stay home if possible … and drive slow if they do have to get out.”
Wednesday will start out largely the same as Tuesday, with snow, sleet and freezing rain possibly amounting to an inch of accumulation. By night, most precipitation should come in the form of rain, but temperatures are not expected to climb much higher than freezing.
Rain, snow, freezing and sleet are likely to continue on Thursday, mostly before noon. A low chance of rain will continue throughout the day before skies start to clear up at night.
Any stubborn accumulation is likely to disappear on Friday under sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s.
“Unlike the last event where it was so cold for several days after, we should see warming on Friday,” Weiss said.
The Robesonian will update this story as additional information is available.