CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Twenty-nine people were in the hospital Friday after hundreds of traffic wrecks across Mecklenburg County as sleet and freezing rain swept through the county, officials said. Two of those crash victims had life-threatening injuries and two more had potentially life-threatening injuries, according to Medic.
The effects of the brief winter storm lingered into early Saturday with the threat of icy roads.
Charlotte Mecklenburg school officials postponed all SAT testing scheduled for Saturday.
Also, Charlotte city officials decided to delay solid waste pick-ups throughout the city on Saturday morning.
The worst of the sleet and freezing rain moved through Charlotte around 3:30 p.m. and cleared the area two hours later. Precipitation from the storm system was relatively light, as meteorologists had expected.
But with temperatures in the mid-20s throughout the day – about 25 degrees below the average high for the date – the light sleet and freezing rain quickly coated roads with a sheet of ice.
The high temperature of 27 degrees Friday was the coldest in Charlotte since 2004, according to the National Weather Service.
Throughout the cold, Medic responded to 81 wrecks throughout Mecklenburg County, officials said. CMPD had worked more than 100 vehicle accidents, a spokesman said at 4:30 p.m. And troopers with the N.C. Highway Patrol responded to more than 200 wrecks across the county.
No weather-related fatalities had been reported by Friday evening, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.
By mid-afternoon, first responders were on the scenes of more than 50 wrecks across Mecklenburg, including several that jammed interstates and others that left vehicles overturned in the middle of lanes and on road shoulders.
“All our guys are tied up on vehicles,” one CMPD dispatcher said over the police radio as wreck reports continued to come in. Accidents on Interstates 485, 85 and 77 began just before 3 p.m. and continued to add up for several hours, delaying or bringing traffic to a standstill.
Local and state transportation officials began preparing Thursday for the winter storm, with hundreds of trucks criss-crossing the major thoroughfares to spread a solution that helps prevent ice from forming.
Meanwhile, all schools in the region closed early, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Officials at CMS announced Friday morning that students would be dismissed two hours early and all after-school activities were cancelled.
At the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, arriving and departing flights had average delays of one hour as employees worked to de-ice planes around 4 p.m.
But traffic problems were the biggest problem for emergency responders and commuters. Icy bridges led to a collision near the intersection of W.T. Harris and Independence boulevards in Charlotte, causing a six-car pile-up around 5 p.m. Police had reported no injuries.
At 2 p.m., a motorist told The Observer he saw at least 10 vehicles in the median of Interstate 77, between Barium Springs and Statesville. That same area of precipitation caused officials to close a section of Interstate 40 in Catawba County.
(Photos: Winter weather hits Charlotte)
Several hours earlier in Huntersville, a person was pinned inside a vehicle after a collision at Huntersville-Concord and Sims roads. The victim was taken to Carolinas Medical Center-Main with life-threatening injuries.
A short while later, a Huntersville Fire Department truck collided with a vehicle on Simonton Drive. The fire engine had been responding to another wreck when the car crossed the center lane and was struck, fire department spokesman Bill Suthard said.
A passenger in the vehicle was also taken to CMC-main with life-threatening injuries.
The sleet and freezing rain ended in Mecklenburg County around 5:30 p.m.