Mother Nature has struck Richmond County again, but this time the snow, sleet and ice are sticking to all the roads and not just bridges and secondary streets.
Trees were reported down as early as 1 p.m. Wednesday and fears of widespread power outages were a concern late Wednesday into Thursday morning.
Jonathan Blaes with the National Weather Service desk in Raleigh, said that snow would continue several hours into Wednesday afternoon and would become heavier into the late afternoon and evening.
Hamlet and Hoffman are to see more of a mix of sleet and the town of Ellerbe will see more snow, said Blaes.
The National Weather Service also said that over Wednesday night and into Thursday morning there would be a good deal of sleet and freezing rain with that rain diminishing some after midnight.
Blaes said there will be steadier snow late Thursday morning and a few snow showers throughout the day, but things should begin to improve by Thursday afternoon.
“Metrically, we’re only expecting two to four inches altogether,” said Blaes. “It’s not going to be record-breaking.”
However, snow isn’t what the National Weather Service and residents of Richmond County are worried about.
“Trees are gonna be snapping, travel will be difficult and people are going to be without power,” said Blaes.
This winter mix is a storm that typically only comes around every five to 10 years, but Blaes said this one will be remembered for people losing power and because of the sleet and ice.
Donna Wright, Richmond County Director of Emergency Services, reported that Richmond Senior High School will continue to be used as a shelter for the duration of the storm due to its large capacity.
“Three to four (Dept. of Social Services) workers are working 12-hour shifts at the shelter,” said Wright. “There’s also a nurse from the Health Department on each shift and the school provided two maintenance workers and two cafeteria staff members.”
Wright said that only three people have utilized the shelter at the high school so far, but her office received many calls on Wednesday afternoon. Wright expects there to be a lot more residents of Richmond County to head to the shelter once ice and sleet begin to cause heat and power outages.
On Tuesday, Richmond County Commissioners declared a state of emergency and opened up two shelters, but the Ellerbe shelter located at Mineral Springs Elementary School was closed shortly before midnight. For those needing a ride to the shelter, call 910-417-4948.
“We’ll open more shelters if needed,” said Wright. “We’ll look and see at that point which ones to open.”
At the time The Daily Journal went to press, Wright was unsure of how much the cost for running the shelter would be.
“Once the shelter closes, a tally of how much the cost will be will be taken,” said Wright.
Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. had closed only one road as of early Wednesday afternoon — Old Route 220 near Ellerbe at the rest stop. Clemmons had members of the 11732nd Military Police Company of the North Carolina National Guard at his disposal. Gov. Pat McCrory had mobilized the National Guard on Tuesday when he declared a state of emergency.
Army Specialist Darren Canfield, of Coats, said his Rocky Mount unit was temporarily based at the Rockingham Armory building. Canfield said his unit was on call at Clemmons’ discretion.
Editor/content manager Kevin Spradlin contributed to this story.