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Published Tue, Jan 29, 2013 08:00 PM
Modified Sat, Feb 02, 2013 06:15 PM

Icy storm sends students, employees home early

- ajames@newsobserver.com
Customers crowded into Lowes Foods on U.S. 70 on Friday afternoon as sleet made the roads slick during the beginning of the storm.
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- ajames@newsobserver.com

CLAYTON -- A week after Clayton area residents were left jilted by weather prognosticators, the area got its first real dose of winter weather on Friday.

After three days of abnormally chilly temperatures, sleet and ice that fell Friday coated the roads in Clayton, causing several fender benders and sending students home from school early.

There were nine wrecks reported during the sleet storm. Seven of the nine were single vehicles running off the road or into ditches. On Saturday morning, police helped drivers who reported that they were spinning tires on the ice, but there were no major wrecks.

The ice storm started out with snow flakes falling around noon on Friday, and as temperatures dropped, the flakes turned into sleet by the afternoon, then froze to the ground overnight, causing slippery streets into Saturday morning.

The Town of Clayton Utilities Department prepared for the storms by putting brine on the roads on Thursday. “We believe it helped some with the roads,” said Stacy Beard, town spokeswoman. Crews applied more sand and brine mixtures on icy spots on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

All Johnston County schools were released at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. The Clayton Community Center and the Hocutt-Ellington Library were closed Saturday due to the weather. Town officials shut down all non-emergency operations by about 2 p.m. Friday as the weather began to worsen.

But the weather was almost providential for one group. The Zaxby’s Polar Plunge to raise money for the Special Olympics still took place on Saturday, despite the freezing weather. Folks lined up for a chance to jump in frigid water for charity while ice covered much of the ground around the pool in the Zaxby’s parking lot.

Friday’s weather also put a crimp in area high school sporting events. All basketball games scheduled for Friday night were cancelled. On Monday morning, forecasters were warning of the possibility of more freezing rain. Although several school districts in the region delayed school openings on Monday, Johnston County maintained its regular schedule, a move that proved to be the right one as the next round of freezing rain never made it into Johnston County.

James: 919-553-7234

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