Virginia officials defend response to snowy gridlock on I-95

Snow on Jan. 3 shut down a section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, Va. A wintry mix is possible Sunday in eastern North Carolina.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday issued a hazardous weather advisory for eastern North Carolina warning that wintry precipitation was possible later this week.

Meteorologist Casey Dail of the Weather Service office in Newport said it was still too early for specifics, but a low-pressure system is bringing cold temperatures to the area and could add in moisture later this week into Sunday. “There is potential for precipitation to start as rain, snow or a wintry mix before it transitions to rain on Sunday afternoon.”

The advisory stated a storm system this weekend has “the potential to bring a period of wintry precipitation to eastern North Carolina with some light snow accumulations possible before snow changes to rain.”

The weather service forecasts a 70 percent chance of precipitation in Bertie County. Snow is expected before 10 a.m. followed by rain and snow between 10-11 a.m. The forecast high is 46 degrees and a low of 30 on Sunday. It will be mostly cloudy throughout the day.

Martin County has a forecast high of 44 degrees and a low of around 32. There is an 80 chance of precipitation with snow likely before 10 a.m. followed by rain in the afternoon.

Overnight low temperatures are expected to remain below freezing through the weekend.

The Department of Transportation is preparing for the wintry weather starting Thursday, officials said. Bridges and overpasses in Martin and Bertie counties will be treated on Friday.

Tim Hass, NCDOT communication officer, said if conditions become more severe, all primary routes in Martin and Bertie counties will be treated.

The NCDOT suggests motorists to stay off the road unless absolutely necessary if wintry conditions exist. When driving, maintain a safe following distance and pass with extreme caution. Do not use cruise control and approach bridges and overpasses with caution.

If you begin to slide, remove your foot from the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Avoid using your breaks and wait for your vehicle to slow down enough to regain traction before gently accelerating.

Colder weather also raised concerns about home heating safety after residential fires in the region. A mother, father and 4-year-old son were killed Sunday in a fire in the Pitt County community of Bell Arthur.

The fire was attributed to overloaded extension cords. A space heater also was in use, officials said. A similar incident displaced three people from their home in Grifton on the same day.

The American Red Cross on Monday urged residents to take care when heating their homes.

Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, the local agency reported. Since Dec. 1, the Eastern North Carolina Region has helped 362 people with urgent needs like emergency lodging, financial assistance and recovery planning after home fires.

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“Colder temperatures often bring the increased risk of home heating fires, and we want everyone to stay safe by properly warming their home,” said Barry Porter, Regional CEO, American Red Cross Eastern North Carolina. “The Red Cross recommends families be mindful when heating their homes, especially with the use of space heaters.”

Among other advice, the agency said residents should plug space heater power cords directly into outlets — never an extension cord. They should be turned off in empty rooms and while sleeping.