WATAUGA — Winter weather and slick road conditions were the cause of several closures and accidents on Wednesday, Dec. 5.
With only a “dusting” of snow expected in the area, many organizations in the area chose to close after receiving more snow than predicted. Watauga County Schools canceled school for Wednesday and Thursday, and the Watauga Campus of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute canceled all day and evening classes Wednesday.
Shortly after noon Wednesday, Appalachian State University also decided to cancel all classes starting at 1 p.m. Classes were canceled due to “inclement weather and difficulty with responding to varied and rapidly changing weather.”
Watauga County Communications telecommunicator Melissa Harmon said that as of 12:20 p.m. Wednesday, dispatch had received calls for 15 vehicle wrecks with property damage, five wrecks with injured persons and nine stranded motorists. The county received four more wreck calls with property damage and two additional injury calls after this time.
State Highway Patrol enlisted the help of additional troopers as a result of the influx of incident calls, Harmon said.
U.S. 421 South near Monarch Lane and Old U.S. 421 at Roby Greene Road were the main two problem areas the county was experiencing, Harmon said. She went on to call the slick roads on Old U.S. 421 a “catastrophe.”
At 10:30 a.m., Harmon said parts of these roads were closed or blocked due to multiple incidents — such as an 18-wheeler that struck another vehicle and became stuck on U.S. 421. A few hours later at 12:20 p.m. the roads were reopened but traffic was moving slow, she said.
Other roads that experienced vehicular accidents were Sampson Road, Whispering Pines, Whispering Hills, Aho Road, Shady Creek Lane and N.C. 105 South. However, Harmon said wrecks were happening all over the county.
Harmon said she wasn’t aware of any calls for trees down or other weather-related impacts.
Boone Police Communications/Records Supervisor Kevin Hardy stated that starting from 6 a.m., the department received 12 stranded vehicle calls and 14 calls for accidents.
Kevin Whittington, the N.C. Department of Transportation highway maintenance engineer in Watauga County, said there were 13 NCDOT road crews and 13 to 14 contractors working to clear the roadways that afternoon, Whittington said. These crews were working mostly on primary roads with some attention paid to heavy volume secondary roads. He said while crews may have scraped some roads, the intensity of the snow and low temperatures could have roads covered again soon after.
“Everybody needs to really use caution while driving today,” Whittington said. “It could be clear around (a) curve, go around the curve and on the other side it could be snow covered due to the fact the way these snow squalls are coming through today.”