No fatalities reported in Charlotte-area traffic snarls

slyttle@charlotteobserver.com abell@charlotteobserver.com htrenda@charlotteobserver.com February 12, 2014 

All major roads around the Charlotte area were in gridlock Wednesday afternoon, as weather conditions deteriorated and people tried to make their way out of the city to get home, the N.C. Department of Transportation said.

But no fatalities were reported in the Charlotte area and motorists began to heed officials’ advice to stay off the roads. In a news conference around 4 p.m., Gov. Pat McCrocy asked the public to drive only in an emergency. The city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County both declared being in a state of emergency a short time later.

At about 2:40 p.m., NC DOT closed the flyover ramp from Interstate 77 South that leads to Interstate 485’s outer loop. Travelers were advised to instead take I-77 south to exit 2, get on I-485’s inner loop and exit at Tryon Street, then get back on I-485 outer.

One of the worst spots for commuters was outbound East Independence Boulevard. Heavy snow and a couple of wrecks forced outbound traffic into a single lane, and traffic was barely moving.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers were diverting travelers away from Independence between Interstate 277 and Hawthorne Lane around 3 p.m. because of the road conditions.

Doreen Szymanski, a spokesperson for the Charlotte Department of Transportation, said officials were encouraging travelers to stay off Independence Boulevard – and all other roads.

Thompson said trucks had been dispatched to Independence Boulevard to spread salt and to plow, but the trucks were having difficulty getting the job done because of the traffic volume.

She urged people to stay in their cars and not abandon them. “If a car is abandoned, someone could hit it and start a chain reaction,” Thompson said.

Some people took to social media to offer their homes for stranded travelers. Others took to Twitter and other sites to blast the traffic problems, comparing it to those Atlanta recently experienced.

Officials continue to urge people to stay off the roads if at all possible.

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