Charlotte, NC

Queen City Roundup 1/18: Snowstorm impacts schools and roads, 2 new COVID testing sites, primary election decision

Collin Cunningham
Snow decorates North Tryon Street during Charlotte's last major storm in 2018(Wes Hicks/Unsplash)

By Collin Cunningham

(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Good snowy morning, Charlotte! Sunday's storm ravaged the American South, causing accidents, delays and school cancellations in the Queen City. We'll tell you what was closed, what remains shuttered and what conditions to be vigilant for as the sun comes out today.

Roads surrounding Charlotte are still dangerous to drive, with footage showing a truck flipping on Interstate 77 in Charlotte. We'll show you the video, and tell you why North Carolina lawmakers are considering postponing the state's primary elections again.

And new COVID-19 infections are continuing to surge in North Carolina alongside the winter weather, with the state announcing new data related to the virus as two new coronavirus testing sites set up shop in Mecklenburg County.

It is Tuesday, Jan. 18, and here's what every resident of the Queen City needs to know until tomorrow. There was no roundup yesterday due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we hope everyone was able to take some time to celebrate and reflect on the holiday.

1. Sunday snowstorm leads to school closures, dangerous road conditions today

What happened: Sunday brought Charlotte its first accumulative snowfall of the year, as 2.2 inches of snow fell near Charlotte Douglas International Airport, in the western area of the city. Airlines canceled more than 400 flights departing from or arriving in Charlotte yesterday, forcing passengers to sleep on airport benches, WCNC reports.

Why it matters: Temperatures remain in the mid-20s this morning and are expected to crest around 44 by 3 p.m., leading the National Weather Service to encourage Mecklenburg County drivers to stay off the road. The NWS alert says black ice is "expected to cause treacherous road conditions" until noon today.

So what closed?

Schools: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools were closed yesterday due to MLK Day and the district announced around 5 p.m. that buildings will remain closed today due to weather conditions. Teachers will use it as a workday, with students set to make up the time on Feb. 21, per WCCB.

Gaston County, Iredell-Statesville and Caldwell County school districts also canceled classes today, while Fort Mill and Rock Hill Schools transitioned to remote learning for the day.

COVID-19 testing sites: According to WBTV, StarMed Healthcare closed all of its coronavirus testing sites to account for the snow on Sunday and shuttered all outdoor locations on Monday. Those services returned today, per Patch.

Roads and power: That 2.2 inches of snow wreaked havoc on infrastructure in the Carolinas, causing over 16,000 North Carolinians and 8,000 of their neighbors to the south to be without power yesterday. Duke Energy, which provides power to both states, said it has 10,000 workers ready to assist with outages, including 250 to 300 trucks at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the company has set up a temporary base of operations.

Roads didn't close due to the weather directly, but several accidents caused crews to halt traffic on portions of Charlotte's blacktop. Speaking of which...

2. North- and southbound I-77 lanes briefly closed due to 2 crashes

What happened: The hazardous conditions resulting from Sunday's snow caused a pair of crashes that closed parts of Interstate 77 in Uptown in both directions on Monday. The first accident closed northbound lanes until 7 a.m. yesterday after a pickup truck collided with several other cars around 4 a.m.

Just before 8 a.m., on the opposite side of the median, a pickup truck met black ice on the southbound lane, skidded into a roadside barrier and landed on its roof. The lane reopened to traffic around 11:30 a.m.

Why it matters: Neither of those crashes involved injuries, but some of the hundreds of accidents that occurred throughout the Tar Heel State yesterday did. Road crews responded to over 1,000 wrecks in North Carolina on Sunday, including more than 30 in Mecklenburg County, per WCNC.

3. 35,759 new COVID-19 cases statewide, 2 new testing sites in Charlotte area

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services most recently updated its COVID-19 data on Friday, showing a record-high 35,759 new cases and 4,381 hospitalizations due to the coronavirus. Thursday's caseload was higher, at 44,833 new infections, but the NCDHHS said a testing laboratory error added nearly 11,000 cases to the total.

The news came the same day that Mecklenburg County informed residents that two new COVID-19 testing sites would be coming to town on Monday. StarMed Healthcare revved up its engines to open its latest testing site at Charlotte-Motor Speedway's zMAX Dragway in Concord.

MAKO Medical, meanwhile, started testing services at Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte, where the company intends to test at least 3,000 people per day, according to WCNC. The site joins MAKO's other testing locations in Cary and Greener.

Residents looking for a coronavirus test can register to get one at the Mako site on this page or use StarMed's testing portal to arrange a test at one of its locations. Both options are free.

4. Lawmakers to consider moving NC primaries back to June
Opponents of this North Carolina redistricting map, approved by legislators in November, say it grants the majority of seats to the GOP(Courtesy of Princeton Gerrymandering Project)

What happened: On Wednesday, legislators in the Tar Heel State will consider delaying the state's primary elections from May 17 to June 7 due to the lawsuits being brought against the state's district maps. The bill, proposed by Republicans in the North Carolina Senate, comes after the NC Supreme Court chose to move the statewide election from March 8 to May 17 in December.

That initial decision was supposed to give candidates more time to file in the wake of gerrymandering lawsuits brought against the state's Republican-drawn redistricting maps. A three-judge panel in Wake County ruled the maps constitutional last week, but the state Supreme Court is set to hear arguments from the maps' opponents, who appealed the ruling, on Feb. 2.

Why it matters: If the court decides to overturn the maps after the hearing, the NC Board of Elections said lawmakers would have until Feb. 18 to redraw them. The Republicans who proposed the delay stated the court's timeline would not give them enough time to create new maps. If their bill passes, Gov. Roy Cooper will have to sign off on the delay.

Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican who chairs the redistricting committee, called the court's window an "extremely short timeframe," said it "is not necessary" and "can be lengthened by moving the state's primary elections to June 7," according to ABC11.

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I cover the city of Charlotte, North Carolina for NewsBreak's Creator Program. Check back often for daily headline roundups to learn what's happening in the Queen City!

Charlotte, NC

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