RALEIGH, N.C. — Coastal North Carolina counties unaccustomed to snow were walloped by a storm that dumped more than 6 inches (15 centimeters) in some places and caused three traffic deaths around the state.
Gov. Roy Cooper said state troopers responded to 900 crashes after the storm blew in Wednesday, blanketing a swath from central North Carolina to the Outer Banks barrier islands.
He said lingering frigid temperatures mean slick road conditions could persist into the weekend. There were 5,000 power outages scattered in several counties.
The state was taking stock of coastal areas still being lashed Thursday morning by high winds and a half-foot (15 centimeters) of snow.
“We do know that the winds out there have been ferocious, and our seasoned coastal residents who are used to powerful storms and Nor’easters aren’t really used to the blizzard conditions,” he told reporters.
In Elizabeth City near the coast, Kelly White said she spent Wednesday night nervously wondering if 50-mph (80-kph) wind gusts would topple massive pine trees in her yard. Luckily, she didn’t see wind damage in the morning, but feared she and her husband could be homebound for days by snow.
“It was pretty bad. I’ve been on the edge of some hurricanes that came through and it never was that strong,” she said in a phone interview.
Coastal areas near Rodanthe and the Oregon Inlet reported hurricane-strength wind gusts.
Drew Pearson, emergency management director in Dare County along North Carolina’s Outer Banks, estimated 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow at his home in Southern Shores.
“Most of Dare County is snow-covered at this time,” he said.
In nearby Beaufort County, a man died when his car slid off a road early Thursday in snowy conditions and overturned in a ditch, said State Emergency Management spokesman Keith Acree.
To the west, in the Sandhills region known for golf courses and mild weather, the National Weather Service said reports indicated 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow in the resort town of Pinehurst.
In surrounding Moore County, the snow caused a traffic jam Wednesday that kept some people stuck in their cars for hours, drivers told WRAL-TV. Two men died in a separate Moore County accident when their pickup truck slid off the road and overturned into a creek, according to the Highway Patrol.
White, the Elizabeth City resident, said past winter storms have led her to believe local and state governments aren’t prepared to keep roads clear. She said volunteers from a church came to shovel the driveway of an elderly neighbor, but she’s only seen that and one other vehicle attempt to drive in her neighborhood.
“Where I live there’s a lot of elderly people and if there were an emergency, not only could they not get out, I’m not sure if rescue people could get in,” she said.
Drew reported from Durham, North Carolina.