Record snow in some areas piled up overnight across North Carolina as the second round of a winter storm brought deep snow Friday and hundreds of drivers were stranded on an interstate blocked by truck wrecks.
Two tractor-trailers jackknifed in separate accidents in the northbound lanes of Interstate 85 in Randolph County during the night, bringing traffic to a halt as the snow piled up. Some motorists were escorted by the state Highway Patrol to motels to get out of the cold, but not everyone.
Officers estimated that as many as 400 cars were stranded for as much as five hours as snow piled up around them as they waited for the interstate to clear.
"Most have opted to stay with their vehicles until the wrecker can get to them to get them going again," Donovan Davis, Randolph County deputy director of emergency services, said in a telephone interview early Friday.
The trucks were removed and traffic began flowing on the north-south interstate before dawn, Davis said.
Troopers checked each vehicle and most people stayed in their cars, Davis said. There were no injuries.
Eight collisions along a four-mile stretch in Johnston County around 2 a.m. slowed motorists to a crawl in both directions, said Highway Patrol Captain Stephen Briggs in Raleigh.
The Highway Patrol had responded to more than 440 calls between midnight and 8 a.m., most of them weather-related.
The snow collected over wet roads that froze in some spots overnight.
"Don't let the roadways fool you. There is a thin sheen of slush or ice," said 1st Sgt. Everett Clendenin, a state Highway Patrol spokesman. "These conditions we have today are a lot worse than we had yesterday."
Charlotte had up to 15 inches of snow by Friday morning, with a record 11.6 inches of it falling Thursday, almost double the old high mark for the date of 6.5 inches set in 1926.
The total snowfall from Thursday through Friday morning ranged from 12 inches to 18 inches in the Winston-Salem and Greensboro area; 6 inches to 8 inches in the Raleigh-Durham area, and 1 inch to 4 inches further east around Rocky Mount and Wilson.
Bob Chamers was among the few people in the south Charlotte neighborhood called Quail Hollow Estates to bother trying to dig out Friday morning from more than a foot of snow.
Fortunately, the snow was easy to move from his driveway because it stayed packed together without ice under below it, he said, but he did have to dodge snowballs from his grandson, Christian Govero, 7.
He said he enjoyed the day's slower pace reaquainting himself with a task he thought he left behind by moving to the South.
"I came down here from Ohio in 1982. The happiest moment in my life was when I sold my snowblower," Chamers said.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport remained open, spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said.
Charlotte/Douglas International Airport was open Friday morning despite 15 inches of snow in less than a day, spokeswoman Haley Gentry said. The airport is one of three hubs for US Airways and has about 470 daily departures.
"We haven't had many flights coming this morning but we do have some going," Gentry said.
About 500 to 700 travelers were stranded and spent the night in the airport's terminals.
"A lot of people were actually aboard their aircraft and due to weather conditions could not take off," Gentry said.
On the eastern coastal plain and shoreline, gale warnings were posted with gusts expected of up to 40 mph. Rain, sleet and a few flurries fell in some areas, puddling next to snow banks on freshly plowed roads.
Utilities across the state reported no problems with service Thursday.
The roads were another matter. The storm closed schools and businesses across the state Thursday and forced the White House to cancel a visit by President Bush to a fund-raiser in Charlotte.
The snow forced the Army to postpone the planned departure Friday evening of National Guard units from Durham, Goldsboro, High Point, Parkton, Southern Pines and Clinton headed to Iraq. They are part of the biggest deployment of North Carolina National Guard troops since World War II.
A planned flyover of Navy Super Hornet jets in Eastern North Carolina was postponed until Saturday. The exercise was intended to show neighbors of a planned landing field in Washington County the level of noise they can expect once the field is built.
Steven Bevilacqua, 10, and Stephen Montgomery, 13, spent Friday morning building an igloo in their Charlotte neighborhood. "This is awsome," Montgomery said of the heaviest snowfall he had ever experienced.
They planned to head to Montgomery's home for a change of clothes and some hot chocolate before heading to work. "We're going to knock on doors and see if we can make some money shoveling driveways," Bevilacqua said.
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