Winter Storm Warning: NC Governor urges drivers to stay off the roads

RALEIGH, NC (AP) - State officials are making preparations ahead of a winter storm expected to impact the eastern third of North Carolina.

"The good news is the storm is moving quickly and should be gone by Thursday afternoon," said Gov. Roy Cooper during a press conference Wednesday. "The bad news is we will have unusually cold temperatures sticking around for several days and those frigid temperatures can be dangerous particularly for people who lose power during the storm."

The National Weather Service upgraded a winter storm watch on Tuesday to a winter weather advisory, effective from noon Wednesday until Thursday morning. Forecasters said the storm could leave up to 3 inches of snow in the easternmost counties.

"In eastern NC they are not as used to this bad of weather," Cooper said. "They've had it occasionally. That's why the state resources can be so important to the counties if they need our help, and why we're treating this very seriously. Because you do have the combo of frigid weather, freezing rain, snow and high winds."

Cooper said a small change in a storm's track can make a big difference in how much snow falls and where. Cooper is encouraging families and businesses to get ready.

During a news conference, Cooper said 28 school systems are releasing students early Wednesday and six school systems were closed.

The governor plans to declare a state of emergency for the impacted parts of the state, which will allow officials to deploy essential assets for emergency response and for any recovery that is needed.

Drivers in areas hit by the winter storm are being told to expect treacherous driving conditions overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning.

"Between the high winds and the possibility of ice, and the very cold temperatures, we expect travel to be difficult and dangerous with power outages possible," Cooper said.

State troopers are marking abandoned vehicles on the roadways and coordinating with law enforcement to ensure no one is left stranded in these dangerous conditions.

"We're following the state's quick clearance policy which instructs DOT crews to swiftly clear the road by pushing any vehicle that may impede traffic out of the roadway and onto the shoulder," Cooper said.

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.