Sleet and snow have left roadways across the Charlotte metro region treacherous Saturday morning, and little improvement in highway conditions is expected for the rest of the day.
Heavy sleet moved across the Charlotte area before daybreak, falling on top of several inches of snow that fell hours earlier north and west of the city.
While the heaviest precipitation is moving east of Charlotte at 8 a.m., forecasters say temperatures will fall into the lower 20s this afternoon. That will prevent the snow and sleet from melting.
Slippery roads might have contributed to a wreck that killed a motorist overnight in southwest Charlotte, police say. Bulmaro Zalazar, 27, died in a one-vehicle wreck on Nations Ford Road.
Street crews have responded to the snow and sleet by using plows on major thoroughfares, and they are spreading salt and calcium chloride to melt what already is on road surfaces. The calcium chloride is a new form of ice-melting compound that was used with considerable success by the N.C. Department of Transportation on a trial basis last year.
Little or no snow fell from the storm south of Interstate 85 — much as the National Weather Service originally had predicted — but plenty of sleet was reported for several hours overnight. The sleet caused dangerous road conditions across the area, and while the N.C. Department of Transportation and its South Carolina counterpart are not reporting any roads closed, authorities are discouraging travel.
“We don’t recommend travel,” said Jen Thompson, of the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Snowfall totals varied widely, ranging in Mecklenburg County from a coating in Matthews and the Ballantyne area to about 5 inches in Cornelius and Davidson. A little more than an inch was reported at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.
The big problem, forecasters say, is that none of what has fallen will melt today. Temperatures are in the upper 20s at daybreak, but the thermometer is expected to fall during the day and reach 20 degrees by this afternoon.
More than 8 inches of snow was reported at Cherryville in Gaston County and across parts of Iredell and Catawba counties. About 3 to 4 inches was reported in Cabarrus and Stanly counties.
Virtually no snow was reported in southern Union County and across nearby South Carolina counties.
Charlotte/Douglas International Airport is open this morning, but a number of flights have canceled. Lengthy delays are being reported because anti-icing compound is being applied to jets before they take off.
Sleet and snow have brought the Charlotte metro region to a near-standstill Saturday morning, coating highways with a layer of sleet pellets that have made conditions treacherous.
Forecasters expect heavy sleet to continue until about 9 a.m. along and south of Interstate 85. North of that area, a mix of snow and sleet is falling.
A first wave of snow moved across the Charlotte metro region Friday evening, leaving anywhere from a dusting to 5 inches of snow on the ground and creating hazardous road conditions in parts of the N.C. mountains and Piedmont.
Another burst of snow fell about midnight, but the precipitation changed to sleet and freezing rain about 1 a.m., as warmer air moved into the middle levels of the atmosphere.
Winter storm warnings remain in place for the entire region. And an ice storm warning is posted for a corridor of counties to the south of Charlotte.
Road crews in Charlotte, the area’s other cities and with the Carolinas’ departments of transportation are on duty this morning. The N.C. Department of Transportation has been using plows for several hours, and conditions on Interstates 77, 85 and 40 are reported to be slushy to snow-covered.
“There’s not a lot of traffic out there,” said Thompson, of the N.C. Department of Transportation. “But we’ve been monitoring our cameras, and we’ve seen some cars sliding, or spinning and stopping in the opposite direction.”
Officials closed Interstate 77 near the North Carolina-Virginia border for several hours overnight after a serious multi-vehicle wreck on the snow-covered road.
A check of East Independence Boulevard, I-485 and other routes in the Matthews area this morning showed roads to be very slippery. But most drivers were staying well under the speed limit.
One good bit of news with this storm — the relative lack of freezing rain and power outages.
At 8:30 a.m., Duke Energy reported about 24,000 customers without power, but most of those were in the mountains. No outages were reported in Mecklenburg County.