Raleigh - N.C. Department of Transportation crews along the coast prepared for Tropical Storm Hermine as it approached North Carolina Friday.
Along the Outer Banks and in the northeastern and southern counties, transportation personnel have been prepping since last weekend, checking equipment, chainsaws and resources such as barricades, signs and pipes. Maintenance crews have also been clearing storm trains and identifying areas prone to trouble.
"Our crews are ready to address affected roadways as the storm passes through North Carolina," Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson said Friday. "We remind motorists to put safety first and avoid driving through standing water."
Earlier this week, Hermine was initially expected to have minimal impact, but that is now expected to be much stronger.
The department's Ferry Division began assisting with coastal evacuations Thursday afternoon, and the worsening weather prompted the department's Ferry Division to temporarily suspend operations Friday afternoon. Routes will resume as soon as it is safe to do so.
The greatest impact from the storm -including severe flooding, especially in low-lying areas -was expected to occur Friday night and early Saturday morning, with wind and rain likely lasting throughout the weekend.
Depending upon the intensity, track and duration of the storm, downed power lines, toppled trees and torn tree limbs are possible. If the region experiences a direct hit from Hermine, debris such as tree limbs will likely find its way onto travel lanes.
The Department of Transportation advises motorists to stay off the roads during and immediately after the storm. In addition to being impassible, serious safety hazards are possible on roadways, including:
Downed powerlines beneath flooded roads and streets
Potential washout of the road due to heavy downpours
High water levels that can strand motorists
Toppled trees with shallow root systems.
If you must travel, use extra care and take precautions:
Make storm preparations in advance. Stock up with enough water, medication, baby formula, non-perishable food and other essentials to last a minimum of 72 hours.
Traveling during a storm can be very dangerous. Avoid driving unless it is absolutely necessary and do not drive through standing water.
Stay clear of streams, drainage channels and areas known to flood.
If you do travel after the storm passes, be aware that traffic lights might be out at various intersections. In this instance, use caution and treat the intersection as a four-way stop. If you have an emergency on the road, and your cell phone is operational, you can contact the Highway Patrol statewide by calling *HP (*47) or call law enforcement by dialing 911. Please don't call 911 to check on road conditions.
Reduce your speed and drive defensively. Motorists should drive at least five to 10 miles per hour slower on wet pavement and allow at least twice the normal following distance between cars to provide ample room for stopping. Be ready for a sudden stop. Remember that the driver behind you cannot see well either in the rain. Signal for turns ahead of time and brake early as you near a stop. Be patient and do not pass lines of traffic.
Roads are the slickest once rain has begun to fall. For the first 10 to 15 minutes, the rain combines with dirt, dust, oil, grease and rubber to create a slippery surface. If the rain is extremely heavy, stop and pull over with your emergency flashers on, away from any trees or other tall objects. If motorists must exit the vehicle, they should do so on the passenger side of the car.
- Turn on your low beam headlights and use the defroster to increase visibility whether it is day or night. North Carolina law states that motorists must use their headlights at all times while using windshield wipers, regardless of the time of day.
- Do not drive through flooded areas. If you see a flooded roadway ahead, turn around and take an alternate route to your destination. If there is no alternate route, head to higher ground and wait for the water to subside. Do not attempt to cross over a flooded road even if it seems shallow. Just one foot of water can float many vehicles, while two feet of rushing water can carry away vehicles including SUVs and pick-ups.
- After driving through a puddle, tap your brake pedal to help dry your brake rotors.
- Know what to do if your car begins to hydroplane. Hydroplaning occurs when your tires glide across the surface of the water on the road. If your car starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas, but do not stomp on the brakes. Instead, apply the brakes in a steady, slightly firm manner, and steer in the direction of the skid. If you have a manual transmission push in the clutch and let the car slow down on its own. If you have an automatic transmission, hold the steering wheel steady and lightly apply the brakes. For cars that have antilock brakes, you should apply more pressure to the brakes, but avoid pumping them.
- Put together a supply kit for your trunk. Include a flashlight, first aid kit with an instructional manual, blanket, booster cables, shovel, sand to give tires needed traction, snacks and drinking water, and safety flares or an orange or red cloth to tie to the antenna.
Residents and visitors can to download the ReadyNC app for real-time weather and traffic information. Road condition updates are also available in the Travel section of NCDOT.gov or by following NCDOT on Twitter, where the storm can be followed at #HermineNC.