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Weekend storm affects power, travel

Though a wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain frosted over roads, closed schools, and led North Carolina Governor Mike Easley to declare a state of emergency, the damage from Sunday's storm was minor compared to December's ice.

Driving was still hazardous Monday, however, as the State Highway Patrol tallied nearly 2,500 accidents on North Carolina roads since midnight Saturday. The Triangle received about a quarter inch of precipitation, covering roads and sidewalks with ice. The Piedmont and areas around the North Carolina-Virginia state line received up to one and a half inches, and the mountains received around half an inch.

The Highway Patrol responded to 465 vehicle collisions between midnight and about 11 a.m. Monday, more than three times the normal total, Patrol Sergeant Everett Clendenin said.

The storm was part of the same system that blanketed Washington, D.C., and the mid-Atlantic states with snow this weekend. Easley's state of emergency remained in effect as of Monday.

Ice that had accumulated on tree branches fell on power lines, causing utility outages that deprived over 20,000 households of power statewide. But the number of outages pales next to the 2 million outages caused by December's ice storm, and 2,700 energy workers were busy restoring power Monday.

In Durham, the roads were "progressively improving" Monday, said Peter D'Orazio, superintendent of Durham's Street Maintenance Division. D'Orazio added that seven crews were working on Durham roads, and there were few, if any, weather-induced power outages in Durham. He said many of the trees and branches that would crack under the ice had already fallen in December's ice storm and had been removed by cleaning crews.

"I know people who had gone to such an extreme that if they had a tree they didn't like, they took it down anyway," D'Orazio said.

Durham public schools were closed Presidents' Day, despite the original plan to use the holiday to make up classes missed in December, The Herald-Sun of Durham reported. Tuesday's classes were canceled as well.

Several local businesses are also altering their schedules due to the weather. Victor Iod, an employee of Kroger on Hillsborough Road, said the store was closing at 11 p.m., though it is usually open 24 hours.

"[Business] has been slow all day long," Iod said.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport remained open through the storm, but at least 45 flights were canceled while others were delayed due to storm conditions elsewhere, an airport spokeswoman said.

Forecasts predict sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s Tuesday, leading to melting and an eventual clearing of roads. By Saturday, the temperature may rise to 65.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.


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