Mishaps involving tractor-trailers closed major highways that were labeled “impassable” in Surry County Thursday afternoon as the area weathered one of its largest snowfalls in years.
“We’ve got tractor-trailers jackknifing in Elkin — they’re about eight lined up there that we’re trying to get off the road,” Surry Emergency Services Director John Shelton said of a situation along Interstate 77 near Elkin.
The southbound portion of 1-77 was blocked as a result, which also was the case early Thursday afternoon on U.S. 52 south of Mount Airy.
Two tractor-trailers were stranded on a steep hill on that highway between Cook School Road and Holly Springs Road, according to Trooper Van Tate of the N.C. Highway Patrol.
Crews were trying to get the southbound portions of both major highways reopened as soon as possible as the winter storm continued to add inches of accumulation to that already received when the precipitation began on Wednesday afternoon.
About 10 inches had fallen by noon Thursday in Mount Airy, with the white stuff still coming down. Total accumulations of 14 inches or more were eyed before skies cleared Thursday night.
Numerous accidents have occurred. “We’re probably up in the 70s right now,” Shelton said early Thursday afternoon of the total wreck-related calls run, though none have been serious.
Many people have simply kept off the roads — probably a good thing, since Trooper Tate described them as “impassable” during the afternoon.
“I mean, the weather’s so bad we’ve got four National Guardsmen up here with Humvees to assist stranded passengers,” Tate said.
His advice to would-be motorists was to “stay home.”
Shelton said that cases of EMS units getting stuck on the way to calls have occurred.
Tate said Surry conditions, though bad, weren’t as severe as those in Forsyth County.
Problems involving trucks have been caused in part by smaller vehicles getting in their way, the trooper said, and slowing the big rigs’ momentum.
‘Slow Go’ In City
The heavy snow caused sanitation service in Mount Airy to be postponed, as public works crews worked to clear the streets.
“It’s a slow go,” Mount Airy Public Services Director Jeff Boyles said of the status of those efforts during the early afternoon Thursday.
“We’ve had some equipment problems — we haven’t been able to get to all the streets yet,” Boyles said. “Some of the streets are so steep.”
Snowplows have become stuck at some locations. “So we’re trying to go back with a motor grader,” he said of a more formidable piece of equipment.
Boyles said citizens should be assured that crews are working around the clock.
“Everybody just stay off the road and give us a chance to do our job,” was his advice to the public. “We’ve got a bunch of hardworking guys doing the best job they can.”
In some cases snow has been piled in front of driveways, which Boyles said is unavoidable
The normally bustling downtown area of Mount Airy was almost devoid of activity Thursday, when nearly all businesses were closed.
“Me and Holcomb’s is about the only two that are open,” said Eric Fleming, owner of Barney’s, a popular local eatery, said of a hardware store a few doors down on North Main Street.
Fleming said is fortunate that many of his employees live close by, and even with that the restaurant was operating with only a skeleton crew and planned to close early Thursday.
Aside from that, the Barney’s owner prides himself on opening during bad weather to help serve a need of the public.
“My philosophy is that you’ve got to be open,” Fleming said. “That’s just what everyone expects.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.