Updated 02/17/21 at 6:00 p.m. : Officials say residents should prepare for up to three days of lost power as Orange County faces a winter storm warning from midnight Thursday until 7 a.m. Friday, with a likely ice accumulation of ¼ to ½ inches across central N.C.
Changes for Thursday, Feb. 18
School facilities for Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will be closed tomorrow, and neither school system will have students attend in-person classes.
Orange County Schools will not have remote classes
Due to the potential for power outages, Orange County Schools has canceled in-person and remote learning on Thursday. All in-person OCS activities, including before and after-school care, athletics and supervised learning labs, are also canceled.
CHCCS to continue remote learning
All Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools students will learn remotely on Thursday. If students are not able to connect to online learning due to internet or power outages, they may do work asynchronously and will not be penalized for missing class.
CHCCS school activities, including athletics, will be canceled on Thursday, and Food for Students will not be operating. All off-site learning locations, including those at University United Methodist Church, the Hargraves Center and the Chapel Hill Community Center, will also be closed.
UNC-Chapel Hill guidance unknown
UNC has not yet released guidance on changes to school services or scheduling.
Town and County services
According to a press release from The Town of Chapel Hill, Town services and Chapel Hill Transit will be closed until at least 11 a.m. on Thursday, after which Town services may reopen if it is safe. The Town began treating roads with a brine solution on Wednesday. The progress of road salting can be tracked here.
Todd McGee, the communications director for Orange County, said the County will announce what services will be available for Thursday on Wednesday evening. Due to COVID-19 safety concerns, Orange County has still not decided whether or not an emergency shelter will be opened.
All of Orange County Health Department's COVID-19 testing sites will be closed on Thursday.
How to prepare
McGee said the County is encouraging residents, including UNC students, to prepare for two to three days without power. He said residents should have three to seven days worth of food and clean water for each person and pet in the household, and should prepare for outages by charging devices and fueling vehicles.
A tweet from Orange County also encouraged residents to make emergency safety kits for severe weather as recommended by North Carolina Emergency Management.
According to Nick Petro, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Raleigh , North Carolina should not experience as severe weather as southern neighbors like Texas.
However, Petro said in a Wednesday morning briefing, cold northeastern winds should lower temperatures to below freezing in large parts of central N.C. as the storm moves in on Wednesday night, changing rain to freezing rain in the early hours of Thursday morning.
“There’s going to be power outages, and perhaps for quite an extended period of time due to the icing,” Petro said.
McGee said he is hoping for the best, but that residents should still prepare to spend up to three days at home without power.
“The ice can bring down trees, which can bring down power lines, and of course, the ice itself on the roads is a hazard, so there's just no reason to be out in it if you don't have to be,” McGee said.
“I know people are tired of staying at home, but we really need to hunker down and be prepared to stay at home for a few days if worse comes to worse.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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