LUMBERTON — Robesonians are hunkering down as Tuesday’s soft, fluffy snow flakes morph into sharp freezing rain, shuttering businesses and clogging roadways with ice — and hanging the threat of widespread power outages over everyone’s head.
Although snow stopped falling in much of Robeson County on Tuesday evening, the winter storm, which has now earned the name Pax, was at it again by 9 a.m today when real-feel temperatures were in the teens. A winter storm warning is in effect until Thursday at 10 a.m. and forecasters say some of the worst is yet to come.
“It’s going to be a tough 48 hours,” said Gov. Pat McCrory during a press conference this morning. McCrory declared a state of emergency Tuesday morning.
Areas around Lumberton are seeing as many as 5 inches of snow that have accumulated since flakes began to fall early Tuesday morning. The southern part of the county, around Lumber River State Park, fell at the low end of the range, with about an inch of mixed precipitation on the ground, according to Carl Morgan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
“Robeson and Bladen counties have the highest snowfall totals we’ve gotten,” Morgan said, noting Robeson is as far north and as far west as his reporting area extends. Bladen saw about 5.8 inches of snow, he said.
A 100 percent chance of freezing rain threatens the county today and tonight, as temperatures remain stuck below freezing. Up to an inch of ice could accumulate by the end of the night.
“The heaviest accumulations will be during the day today; it will lighten up overnight and taper off tomorrow,” Morgan said. “It will predominantly be freezing rain but we are very close to those critical temperatures where you could get snow flakes.”
Students with the Public Schools of Robeson County had their second snow day in a row. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke cancelled classes today and will make a decision regarding Thursday classes by 7 p.m. Robeson Community College is also closed today.
Robeson County offices, along with some other town governments, have shut down operations because of the storm. Business, including Biggs Park Mall, are closed.
The freezing rain could persist Thursday morning, turning to liquid late morning. Less than a quarter inch of precipitation is expected to fall Thursday before skies gradually clear up at night. However, temperatures will remain chilly, likely keeping Robeson’s icy coat intact a little longer.
Friday will be a welcome sight with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the high-40s. A chance of rain Friday night shouldn’t cause refreezing.
“Although we have a small chance of rain we don’t expect it to drop below freezing,” Morgan said.