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Closings, preparations as a potentially dangerous ice storm is coming to the Cape Fear region

The City of Wilmington Public Services Department Director had preparations underway on Thursday, January 20th, 2022 ahead of a major ice storm.
Rachel Keith
The City of Wilmington Public Services Department Director had preparations underway on Thursday, January 20th, 2022 ahead of a major ice storm.

The National Weather Service Wilmington has issued an ice storm warning for the Cape Fear region. Here’s what you need to know, including closings for local governments.

NWS Wilmington Forecast

A cold front is making its way to the region – and it’s bringing significant ice. NWS is anticipating anywhere from two-tenths of an inch, averaging a quarter of an inch, and in some spots, a third of an inch of ice accumulation. There’s also some sleet and snow in their forecast.

Steve Pfaff is the warning coordinator meteorologist for the National Weather Service. He said the ice that’s coming is to be taken seriously.

“I know it doesn't sound like a lot but a quarter of an inch of ice accumulation can add a lot of weight to the tree limbs and also create delays on the roadway. So that's why we anticipate there could be some down limbs and some power outages, and certainly, driving conditions will take a turn for the worse during Friday,” said Pfaff.

As for the timeline when the region will likely see impacts: “We'll see them first on the bridges and overpasses and then things will go downhill during the day and into Friday evening. And we could even feel a little bit of sleet and snow as precipitation exits early Saturday,” said Pfaff.

In particular, for Friday, it’s likely the ice won’t melt throughout the day: “It looks like temperatures are going to drop to freezing or maybe just below freezing and stay locked in through most of Friday and Friday night and Saturday morning. So this cold air, once it gets here, it's going to stay locked in place, at least until Sunday when we might have some highs in the 40s.”

But the region isn’t out of the clear until Sunday midday.

“If there is any melting that occurs Saturday, we're going to get down into the lower 20s Saturday night so if there is some melting that occurs on some of the roadways that we expect it could refreeze. We might even see black ice conditions develop in spite of clear skies Saturday night, just because what melts during the day can refreeze, so there could be some issues and some areas that linger into Sunday morning as a result of those arctic temperatures that are going to be in place,” said Pfaff.

And the public for this storm needs to be aware of two specific safety hazards.

“With the potential for some power outages, we just want to remind people that if they're using generators, make sure they're properly ventilated. Never bring grills or other heating devices that release carbon monoxide inside or even into a garage. We don't want to see carbon monoxide poisoning. If there are limbs that are coming down, it's not good to be walking outside with falling limbs. We've had people get injured with past ice storms that way as well,” said Pfaff.

City of Wilmington

City of Wilmington is deploying trucks to sand and salt roads.

On Thursday, the City of Wilmington held a press conference on how they plan to prepare the roads for the upcoming ice storm.

City trucks have started sanding and salting a portion of the 400-miles of city-owned roads to help melt the quarter of an inch of ice forecasted to descend in the Cape Fear region. The Department of Transportation has been working on state roads, as well.

Dave Mayes is the director of the public services department for the City of Wilmington. He has a warning for the community.

“Don’t go out unless you have to and we’ll do everything that we can to make the roads as clear as possible, but ultimately with ice that’s the most difficult of situations that we would have,” said Mayes. He said he knows public safety units will be out there, too – and that they’ll reiterate the same message.

Mayes added that the city is even outfitting some trucks with plows, but isn’t anticipating using them.

And for those who are expecting their trash and recycling services on Friday, Mayes said his crew will be out there until about noon.

“I gotta say kudos to my staff because these guys come in and they go out and work in these conditions because we know that our citizens depend on it. So all the guys that are coming in to help make the road safe and get the trash collected, please say, ‘Thank you,’ because they know that it's needed and it's important to our citizens,” said Mayes.

Click here for the latest updates on the ice storm.

New Hanover County

During a Thursday afternoon meeting held by the county, Emergency Management Director Steven Still urges residents to be prepared.

"Make sure that your plan covers how to stay warm in an event like this, and how to do it safely. You know, we've certainly had issues in the past where people using combustible materials, using grills indoors, and that's something that we urge our residents not to do. If you're going to keep yourself warm during this short period of power outages, make sure that you can do it safely. And so have that plan in place. And then also to have a kit and make sure that kit includes everything that you need to keep yourself off the road. Keep yourself safe, indoors and warm for that period of time," Still said.

Still also urged residents "to please stay off the road — there's no doubt about that based on the forecast that all of our county is going to expect some level of ice. It's particularly worse on elevated roads and bridges. And so we're asking people don't get on the road. If you do get on the road and you have an accident."

Still noted accidents from unnecessary driving put public safety officials at additional risk.


Due to forecasted icy weather conditions in the Cape Fear region, New Hanover County Schools will transition to remote learning tomorrow, Friday, January 21. All after-school activities and athletics scheduled for Friday are canceled. Instructional materials will be provided or assigned to students on a class-by-class basis by the end of the school day.

Pender County schools will also be remote and students will receive instructions on what to expect today. There will be no school in Brunswick county.

UNCW and CFCC have also cancelled class for tomorrow (all CFCC classes and events, including at the Wilson Center, are cancelled both Friday and Saturday).

New Hanover County government offices will be closed this Friday and Saturday due to inclement weather. The county's ABC liquor stores will also be closed Friday, and will open on Saturday if and when weather permits.

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR
Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature.