GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Many Pitt County residents tool to an infamous sledding hill on 5th Street to spend a snow day with the family.
“When we heard we were going snowboarding, we really wanted it because we just love it,” said Jacob Oliver, bundled up in snow pants.
His sister, Isabella, added, “We brought a pool floatie. That just popped a couple of minutes ago. And we brought a couple of bougie boards.”
All of these toys had a purpose, taking the Oliver siblings down the hill as fast as possible.
Across the way, Jakob Jensen was prepping for a self-acclaimed world record: a “quadruple-decker dad sled down the hill.”
After wiping out with his pals he said, “We brought the kids out here and we thought well we can’t let them have all the fun. The dads and the moms have got to get in on all the action.”
Anything can be a sled on this hill when you use your imagination.
“We don’t actually have one of those real circular sleds,” said Isabella Oliver, “but I think a bougie board works best, especially if you have a slick path like the ones that we’ve been making.”
Slick paths are great for sledding, but not for driving. If you need to travel to reach your family fun site, drive the roads slowly and carefully.
MARTIN COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Freezing temperatures throughout the afternoon set the stage for wintry precipitation, making roads unsafe to drive on.
Department of Transportation trucks were seen treating roadways around Highway 17 hours before the storm was forecasted to begin.
Williamston Fire, Rescue, and EMS were at the ready for any emergency calls. As of noon, fire captain David Bonds was urging drivers to make plans to stay at home.
“We would prefer people stayed off the roadways once the storm does get here just because of the impact that it has for our first responders and also for our DOT workers,” Bonds said. “We have five on duty right now of our normal career staff, and we’re going to be looking at bringing in an additional five guys this evening. That way, we’ve got extra coverage.”
Around 4:00 p.m. sleet fell, accumulating alongside the roadways.
Spanning over the next several hours, there will be a mix of sleet and rain-wet roadways. Freezing air, ground, and soil temperatures quickly made roads hazardous to drive with ice accumulating on busy intersections and poorly lit roadways.
Martin County is forecasted to accumulate two to four inches of snow overnight and around one-tenth of an inch of ice.
While these predictions may not be severe enough to cause mass power outages, they do make for unsafe conditions outside.
Temperatures are going to stay in the freezing range across Eastern Carolina tonight.
For Martin County residents, Captain Bonds advised, “Be mindful of what you’re using for a heating source and of how much you plug into one outlet. Limit the use of any types of drop cords when you’re using heating systems, just for the simple fact that it could potentially cause a short.”
The Williamston Fire, Rescue, and EMS squads will be on call for emergency assistance during the storm.
," said GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Is your home prepared for what is on its way?
Freezing temperatures are soon to set in across Eastern North Carolina. Local experts shared some last-minute advice for you to protect the area you should be spending the most time in this weekend: your home.
Coupled with high precipitation chances, the weather conditions Friday and Saturday are likely to produce ice. Eastern Carolina hasn’t seen a system like this since around January of 2018.
If you find your pipes freezing up overnight, check your cabinets for a hairdryer.
“Just get it working and then leave it dripping so it won’t freeze back up,” Mark Gummeson, Eastern Plumbing technician explains.
Do not use open flames to heat your pipes.
Threats of power outages could make temperatures inside of homes close to freezing, but when trying to stay warm during an outage, “you certainly don’t want to use your stovetop,” Erik Heden, National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist says.
However, you do want to have a backup, secondary heat source.
“If you have a generator, which a lot of us do, make sure that’s gassed up and it’s ready and it’s been tested,” Heden says.
You’ll also want to keep the generator in an open space, not in a garage or shed. This will make sure you are safe from a silent killer: carbon monoxide.
“We’ve had more deaths in the Carolinas because of that than we’ve had with direct deaths because of a hurricane, so it’s a real issue,” Heden says. “You want that generator to be outside because if the fumes get into your home, you can have carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Although the day before a storm may be too late to completely insulate your home and pipes, there is something you can do to prevent a burst.
“Just letting a faucet drip a little bit, even on the hot side, will keep water going through it and prevent freezing up solid,” Gummeson says.
“It may be slow in the morning, but if you open it up, that water temperature itself will go through and warm it up.”
Mark Gummeson, Eastern Plumbing technicianBefore you go to bed on the night before a big weather system, make sure your devices are fully charged.
“If you’re like me and you’re always running on low on battery, tonight is not the night you want to do this. You want this to be fully charged tomorrow,” said Heden.
Ahead of ice and snow accumulation, clean out your gutters and trim away any overhanging weak or damaged tree branches.
Make sure everyone in your home knows where the main water valve is in case of a burst pipe.
Many plumbers will be on-call, 24 hours a day throughout the weekend. Write down their emergency line phone numbers in case you lose power or internet connection.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - With a new plan rolling out from the federal government, free COVID-19 tests can soon be delivered to people’s doors.
The news comes as some Pitt County residents waited in lines for 10 hours at Vidant’s drive-up testing site in Greenville.
“I think I felt more sorry for all the cars with kids,” Sharon Kott said.
“There were so many people there and nobody was leaving.”
Sharon Kott, waited for 10 hours to test at Vidant.
Vidant sees around 700 patients a day for COVID testing. Recently, about 50% of its tests have been coming back positive.
For the healthcare workers administering the tests, the incoming weather system is adding to their stress.
“They are exposed to COVID every day,” Dr. Dave Harlow, Vidant Allied Health vice president said.
“Even if it’s a pretty day and it’s 24 degrees at 7 in the morning, that’s just not normal for most healthcare workers to work in those conditions," said Dr. Dave Harlow, Vidant Allied Health vice president.
Noticing the strain that the omicron variant has put on hospitals across the country, the Biden administration is rolling out four free at-home testing kits for each household.
The tests are rapid antigen tests meant to be taken three to five days from exposure.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Paul Cooks said, “They’re pretty good. They’re not great so if you get a positive, you’ve got an answer. If you get a negative, then you might have to say, ‘Well if I’m having symptoms, maybe I need to get another test.’”
If you have to go to Vidant or another medical provider for a PCR test, “be patient,” advises Harlow.
“We do split the line into four different pieces once you get in there. There are four different lanes that go through there, but even at that, it’s going to take time," said Harlow.
Vidant recently released that it will be closing the gates of its drive-up testing site on Friday, Jan. 21st due to the incoming weather system. Vidant is always closed on Saturdays.
Weather permitting, the site will reopen Sunday morning for more testing.
Anyone who would like to claim their household’s free, at-home testing kits should go here and enter their name and shipping information.
Tests are expected to ship out within 7 to 12 days of ordering.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Winter weather in North Carolina is sending shoppers to grocery store aisles to stock up on essentials.
From a staffing standpoint, the manager of the Piggly Wiggly in Greenville says they have been able to manage even with the omicron variant’s surge.
“We’ve got plenty of product,” store manager Donnie Summerlin said. “We’re getting it in. We are short some items but we’re substituting where we can.”
For Rose Skinner, an avid Piggly Wiggly shopper, preparing for severe weather inks her shopping list with, “definitely milk, bread, and probably meats, some chicken. That’s what usually goes. Those items go first. They get empty real quick.”
Today, those items are on the shelves.
“My crew, they get out here and they go at it every day real hard,” Summerlin said.
Around for 50 years, the last two years of the pandemic have presented new challenges to Summerlin’s crew.
“Each week we just put it together,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for two years so we are kind of professional at it now.”
Summerlin says if you see an empty shelf at his Piggly Wiggly, that doesn’t necessarily mean the store is out of stock. They just haven’t restocked from their back storage yet.
“We have it in the back and we are processing it and getting it out,” Summerlin said. “It will be on the shelves by the end of the week.”
One thing you are bound to experience, pandemic or not, is a line at the checkout.
“You might have to stand in line because it’s always busy, but the cashiers and everyone are always so friendly and helpful,” Skinner said.
WITN’s meteorologists say the winter weather will hit other parts of North Carolina harder than the East this weekend.
Grocery stores are anticipated to stay open at regular hours both Saturday and Sunday.
KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - A youth-led organization is hosting two COVID-19 vaccination clinics on Thursday and Gov. Roy Cooper stopped by for a tour.
Kinston Teens is hosting the clinics to give out first vaccination doses and booster shots. The event will also feature music, educational resources and mask and hand sanitizer giveaways. The events are happening at the following locations:
Cooper thanked the healthcare workers who he says are having to shoulder a lot of the burden of the pandemic.
“One of the reasons why I am here and one of the reasons we are working so hard is we want to keep people who catch COVID from getting severely ill, from having to go to the ICU, and from dying. It can be a real love letter to healthcare workers for people to get vaccinated and boosted," said Gov. Roy Cooper.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley also toured the clinic and spoke at the event. He said there have been more than 11,000 cases of COVID-19 in Lenoir County since the start of the pandemic and 600 in the last week alone.
“Unfortunately the omicron variant is incredibly contagious,” Kinsley said.
“We’re focused on doing three things. We want to save lives, we want to save hospital capacity for every emergency, and we want to keep our kids in the classroom. Seeing what we’re seeing here today is exactly how we do that," said Kody Kinsley, NCDHHS secretary.
Cooper echoed Kinsley’s thoughts on keeping children in schools. “Keeping children safely in the classroom is one of the most important things that we have to do,” Cooper said.
The governor also spoke of the importance of communities like Kinston that build up each other and work to keep each other safe, informed, and engaged in society.
One Lenoir County healthcare worker and caregiver got her booster shot at the event, and urged others to do the same.
“This is very serious, and everyone needs to be precautious,” said Tonia Hawkins. “Everyone needs to booster up if you haven’t gotten your booster yet.”
Kinston Teens, which focuses on empowering young people through service, leadership, and civic engagement, has been working to fight the pandemic since March of 2020.
CEO Chris Suggs says they plan to continue their work to support the community throughout the year.
“We’ve been working very hard as a community, here in Kinston, to navigate this crisis and we’ve done a lot of it because of the support and the investments of our state leadership,” said Suggs.
After Cooper visited the Holloway Community Center, the Kinston Teens team moved their PPE distribution to the Kinston-Lenoir County Public Library.
We are excited to continue making the COVID-19 vaccines available to our community, and be on the frontlines helping Kinston navigate this deadly pandemic. It is proven that vaccines and booster shots help prevent serious illness, death, and further mutations of the virus, and we want our neighbors to be protected," said Chasity Pate, coordinator of the organization’s COVID-19 response.
For more information, click here or call (252) 522-8012. Appointments or pre-registration are not required.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Eyes are turned toward Democrats after President Biden called for changes to filibuster rules Tuesday.
Biden’s support for reform comes from two pieces of legislation regarding voting rights: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The president’s opposition to the longstanding Senate practice has many wondering: what is a filibuster?
The way NC State political science professor Irwin Morris sees it, a filibuster is “basically talking a bill to death.”
Minority parties have used filibusters for centuries to stall the voting on particular bills.
“If you can get 41 Senators including yourself to say, ‘no,’ then there will not be a debate or vote,” Brad Lockerbie, East Carolina University political science professor explains.
Lawmakers have supported and opposed the filibuster rule, depending on which piece of legislation it is in regard to.
“These traditions, these norms, that develop in the Senate, they’ve been there for a long time. And a lot of senators feel a lot of attachment to them even if it’s not in the best interest of their party at that time,” Steven Greene with NC State’s political science department says.
“That is clearly the case with Joe Manchin," said Steven Greene, NC State political science professor.
Sen. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema both oppose the filibuster reform proposed by the president.
When legislation comes down to the 50th majority vote, the senators benefit from the protection of killing the bill.
“It helps provide them some political cover,” Greene said.
“That’s a reason why the filibuster persists despite the fact that you think, ‘Well the majority party? Why don’t they just get rid of it if they can?’” asked Greene.
“Do you want to change the filibuster now in a way that would help you tomorrow and in doing so, is that going to make your life more, or less, difficult in the future?” UNC professor Jason Robert ponders. “When you’re no longer the majority, these changes may get used against you.”
Lockerbie predicts that if any filibuster reform were to come of Biden’s remarks, it wouldn’t be a carve-out of voting rights from the filibuster umbrella, but rather, a wide-open end to the filibuster.
Senators would be forced to make historic, sometimes dividing, votes on bills they may not completely support or oppose.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - January is Blood Donor Awareness month, but the American Red Cross says blood supply is dangerously low, causing hospitals to delay critical care until more units can become available.
Every two seconds, someone in the country is in need of a blood or platelet donation, according to the Red Cross.
This year, the Red Cross has a suggestion for any New Year’s resolutions.
“Give one more time in 2022 than you have in the past,” said regional CEO Barry Porter.
Every eight weeks, up to six times a month, you can roll up your sleeve to help save lives.
“You are in the donor bed 15 to 20 minutes after arriving,” said Porter. “You’re only in the donor bed 10 to 15 minutes because that [donation] process only take about 8 to 10 minutes.”
Once your blood donation is collected in the East, the unit and a test tube vial, both labeled with matching barcodes, journey west.
The unit kept cold in Durham and the test tube is sent to Charlotte to be processed. After undergoing a series of tests, the donation is cleared for distribution about 24 to 48 hours after submission.
“Say we donated at 8:00 in the morning,” explained Porter. “The unit of blood probably won’t be available until about 4:00 tomorrow afternoon. When that happens, we can’t wait until an emergency happens and then ask for blood.”
Banks like to keep a few days of supply, but recently, they are experiencing the lowest donations volumes in years.
While blood units are used often in trauma situations such as surgeries, wrecks, or acts of violence, the majority of blood donations go to cancer patients.
“About 1 in every 5 units of blood, actually goes to cancer patients,” said Porter. “If you think about it in your life, you probably know more people who have cancer, who have battled cancer, than you know who have been in a car accident or have been in a traumatic situation.”
One donation goes a long way, saving up to three adult lives.
To be eligible to donate, you must be 16 years-old with parental consent or 17 years-old and up. You are to be in good general health, hydrated, and fed.
After your donation, you’ll want to avoid heavy lifting and stop for a treat at the Red Cross’ canteens on your way out the door.
In honor of National Blood Donor Month, the Red Cross has partnered with the NFL, automatically entering anyone who donated in January 2022 to win a trip to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.
JONES COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - From tractors, and car bodies, to kitchen appliances, and living room furniture, there was something for everyone at the Trent Volunteer Fire Department’s annual auction at the Jones County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
More than 1500 items were entered at $5 a piece to the grounds. A 10% commission, up to $250, was taken from each sale, with all of the funds benefiting the fire department’s operations.
“We just built a new fire station last year and bought a new fire truck,” said assistant fire chief Kyle Koonce. “We missed a year of our fundraising so it’s very important that we make some money.”
The fundraising was canceled last year due to the pandemic.
In years past, the auction was “to bring the people to buy the food,” said Clifton Mills. He was responsible for cooking 1800 chicken halves for the fundraiser’s barbeque plates.
Now, “it’s hard to do one without the other,” adds Nick Norris who cooked 39 hogs alongside him.
Feeding the anticipated thousands of bidders took help from other community groups.
“Local farmers and just community workers in general, from several communities and counties, they come and help us out,” said Norris
The Trenton Volunteer Fire Department hold just one fundraiser each year to fund their work.
“When we make our money here, we match it with grants,” said Norris. “So, the fundraiser helps with that.”
COVID-19 protocols were in place at the fairgrounds, including a vaccination and booster clinic on site.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Bertie County Sheriff’s Deputy Colter Lipscomb continues his recovery after being critically injured when his patrol vehicle hydroplaned on U.S. 13 on Wednesday.
According to his mother, Netta Lipscomb, he is making remarkable progress at Vidant Medical Center.
Lipscomb is sedated and on a ventilator, but he has opened his eyes a few times overnight and responded to his mother’s voice with head nods.
Today, he was able to give doctors a thumbs up.
So far, the deputy has undergone two surgeries. One took place soon after his arrival at Vidant Medical Center, and repaired abdomen and chest injuries and bleeding.
The other, taking place the following day, repaired femur, hip, and pelvic fractures.
“I am in awe of this miracle,” Netta Lipscomb told WITN News.
“His dad and I, along with siblings, other family, and our community, will forever be thankful," said Lipscomb. "Colter is loved and supported by so many in the community.”
For close family friend Lorie Beth Thomas, Colter’s absence is already felt across the county.
“When we found out, it was pretty shattering, because he’s my husband’s best friend and he literally feels like part of our family,” Thomas said.
Thomas is the owner of Kaley Jase Boutique in downtown Windsor. She says Colter would drop into the store unannounced all the time to put a smile on their faces.
“He’s so loved, I think more than he knows,” Kaley Jase employee Renee Harden said. “He’s just made a really huge impact on our community.”
Lipscomb is also often seen at Rachel’s Bakery and Cafe enjoying lunch.
“Colter comes in here quite often,” said Sissie Dunlow behind the counter. “We see him running by the bakery. Often, they come in here to eat. We just think a lot of Colter. He’s a sweet guy.”
The bakery has now started a new tradition to keep Colter and his family in everyone’s prayers.
“Every to-go order that we get comes in a clear plastic tray. We tape one of these ‘Pray for Colter’ [signs] on it, along with a bible verse,” Dunlow said.
Keeping the Lipscomb family in their thoughts, everyone is reflecting on how important Colter’s presence, and his quirks, are to their lives.
“We thank him for the happiness that he brings,” Thomas said. “You never know what he’s going to do. He picks up animals all the time.”
Lauren Belch, who runs with Colter in the summertime, recalls a special moment shared between the two.
“He opened his back door, and he had a stork in a net on his back seat just walking around,” Belch said.
Fond of animals and a good laugh, Belch isn’t the only target of Colter’s tricks.
“I had a turtle left at my doorstep named Speedy,” Thomas said. “That’s the kind of stuff he does. He’s just funny. You never know when he’s popping in and he just really adds happiness and joy and fun to the community.”
Deputy Lipscomb is anticipated to make a full recovery from his injuries but will need extensive rehabilitation therapy to get there.
When he makes his return to Bertie County, his community has promised to help him, every step of the way.