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Fayetteville, Cumberland brace for another storm

The potential for inclement weather prompts Cumberland County Schools to release students two hours early Thursday, switch to remote learning Friday.


City and county officials are preparing for a winter storm that could bring below-freezing temperatures, ice and the possibility of two to three inches of snow.

The potential for winter weather prompted Cumberland County Schools to announce it will release students two hours early Thursday and switch to remote learning Friday. 

It is the second time in a week that local officials have had to deal with a winter storm. The area saw freezing precipitation Sunday that resulted in some downed tree limbs and power outages, but there was minimal damage reported.

Gene Booth, director of Cumberland County Emergency Services, said the county is monitoring potential issues the storm may deliver beginning Friday and through the weekend.  

“We are working with our partners for potential emergency actions that we may take depending on the forecast,” Booth said Wednesday. “We have had briefings with our disaster team regarding the worst-case scenario.”  

Those discussions range from road conditions, government operations, sheltering and contacts with local utilities, Booth said. 

“No solid decisions have been made, just timing of actions if needed,” he said. “The challenge with this type of event is the changes from one weather model run to the next. The one that was just released predicts less perception.”

The National Weather Service is forecasting freezing rain, sleet and snow. Fayetteville and surrounding areas are under a winter weather watch through Saturday, Scott Bullard, emergency management coordinator for Fayetteville, said in a release. 

“This time will be different,” Bullard said in the release. “We expect more accumulation. We can expect the impacts to be felt all weekend.”  

 County schools early release 

 Students, faculty and staff for Cumberland County Schools will be released two hours early Thursday in anticipation of the weather forecast, the school systems said in a news release. All athletic events and after-school activities are canceled. Prime Time will operate for two hours after the dismissal of students.  

Friday will be a remote learning day, the school system said. Prime Time will be closed Friday, and all athletic events and after-school activities canceled. Students enrolled in classes at Fayetteville State University and Fayetteville Technical Community College should consult with their instructors for additional guidance.  District offices and school buildings will be closed  Friday, and employees will work remotely. 

N.C. DOT already at work 

The N.C. Department of Transportation was out Wednesday preparing throughout the Cape Fear region to include Cumberland and the surrounding counties of Bladen, Columbus, Harnett and Robeson in Division 6. 

“Based on the forecast, we have begun placing brine today on all of our interstates and N.C. and U.S. highway routes throughout Division 6,” said Andrew Barksdale, a spokesman for the department. “The brine will help keep snow from bonding on the pavement, and if we get just a little bit of rain before it turns to snow, the brine will still be an effective pre-treatment of the roads before a winter storm.” 

Jason Dunigan, the Cumberland County maintenance engineer with the Transportation Department, said Wednesday that he has 900 tons of salt coming from Wilmington to help with the roadways. Crews were set to begin putting down brine Wednesday night, he said, and will continue into Thursday morning. Work crews, he said, are scheduled to work in 12-hour shifts. 

“We’ll do that 12-hour shift as long as we have to,’’ Dunigan said. 

 Fayetteville utility stands ready 

 The Fayetteville Public Works Commission was out last weekend when ice fell on power lines, knocking out power to more than 1,000 homes in Haymount, VanStory Hills, College Lakes and Bunce Road in west Fayetteville. 

“Very similar to last week, we are anticipating a possible longer event so we have adequate resources through the weekend,” said Carolyn Justice-Hinson, a spokeswoman for the utility. “We have some contractors that were released to go work in areas hit last weekend, but they are now back to support us. We are also staging on-call staff to minimize COVID exposure.” 

Water crews are prepping backup generators for wastewater lift stations, she said. 

“We have 100-plus lift stations,” she said, “and it’s important to keep pumps working if power goes out at any of them.” 

Electric and water crews and support staff are on standby for power outages and fallen trees, she said, and mutual aid agreements are in place with other state municipal utilities.  

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

Fayetteville, Cumberland County, winter storm, snow, schools, early release, remote learning