DURHAM, N.C. — A winter storm blanketed North Carolina's largest cities with snow Wednesday, canceling school, causing scores of crashes and leaving thousands in the dark.
The National Weather Service received reports of 8 inches of snow in Greensboro and Durham, while Winston-Salem has gotten 6 inches. There have been reports of 4.5 inches northeast of downtown Charlotte. Raleigh was also getting snow.
[WEDNESDAY RECAP: Snow blankets Charlotte region]
"This storm is moving a little slower than they had anticipated, but that means that the impacts on our state could be even greater," Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference.
Acknowledging that some people in the central part of the state had gone to work before the heavy accumulation began, Cooper urged them to "go ahead and go home from work because it's going to get a little nasty out there."
He said that most of the state's 115 school systems had canceled or delayed classes.
James Morrow, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Raleigh, said some parts of central North Carolina could see snowfall totals of as much as 10 inches before the snow tapers. The storm is expected to blow offshore after dumping on North Carolina.
Cooper said the state Highway Patrol responded to more than 1,600 crashes, and Charlotte police reported nearly 200 more by late afternoon. State roads had been treated with more than 2 million gallons of anti-icing salt brine.
"We cannot stress it enough for everyone to stay off the roads unless you have no choice," Cooper said in a prepared statement.
Even the best drivers had trouble: Retired NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted that he had just used his winch to help pull a car out of a ditch when he himself drove off the road and into a tree in North Carolina.
"NC stay off the roads today/tonight. 5 minutes after helping these folks I center punched a pine tree," he reported. A spokesman said Earnhardt was not hurt and his pickup had only minor damage.
About a quarter of the day's 360 arrivals and departures had been canceled at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, aviation officials said.
Duke Energy reported about 28,000 outages, with Durham County accounting for more than a third of them.
As the snow moved into North Carolina, fat flakes stuck to Tierra Murray's hair when she filled up a tire on her sedan with air at a Sheetz gas station in Durham.
"My tire pressure was low due to the temperatures starting to drop," she said early Wednesday.
The 33-year-old nurse's aide said she was leaving a shift in a cardiac unit at Duke University Hospital and heading south to Chapel Hill for another shift at UNC Hospital as a floater available to whatever department needs her. She said that UNC would provide accommodations to medical personnel who need it if the snow keeps them from getting home at the end of their shift.
Asked about her reaction to the forecasts for several inches of snow, she said: "Just worry because I know I have to be at work. Just hoping to get back home afterward."
To the west, Scott Boren could see several inches on the ground and parked cars covered in snow from his office in Burlington.
Boren, a recruiter for a company that provides cable television installation, was taking the conditions in stride.
"To me, driving in the snow is not that big of a deal," he said.