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Worst Snowfall in Wake County’s History Smothers Multiple Sites

Wed March 22, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Ron Page

More than 20 pieces of heavy equipment are back at work at some 82.2 hectares (203 acres) of former tobacco fields being prepared as the complex for a high school, an elementary school, a firehouse, and future library in an annexed rural area of the town of Cary in Wake County, NC.

Work was stopped at the overall project by the worst snowstorm in Wake County history when two feet of snow smothered the ground and equipment, including conduits, piping and foundation blocks. A week of sub-freezing weather kept crews from being able to free the equipment and access the foundations that had already been started.

Considered the largest high school in the county, the new Middle Creek High School itself will be 27,406 square meters (295,000 sq. ft.) and is being constructed by DJB Construction Group of Raleigh. A 7,896-square-meter (85,000 sq. ft.) elementary school has already been framed several hundred feet to its north. Edifice Inc., also of Raleigh, is building the single-story elementary school which will hold 32 classrooms.

The actual land clearing for the entire area is being done by subcontractor Thompson Grading of Raleigh. The firm began work last year on a project which includes a heavily-wooded area of some 32.4 hectares (80 acres). Philips & Jordan of Cary, a timber contractor, has been awarded the job of cutting and removing the trees.

DJB Project Superintendent D.J. Smith said the new high school will actually consist of some seven buildings modified with expansion joints designed to make it appear as one structure. With an exterior of brick, a roof of single ply rubber and flooring of slab concrete, the building will have push windows, 50 percent of which will be operational. Sections of the overall structure will range from one to three stories.

The administrative offices and auditorium will be carpeted, while the cafeteria will have terrazzo flooring.

The new high school will be just south of where Edifice workers are nearing the halfway point in constructing a new elementary school for students in kindergarten to fourth grade. The outer shell and roof for this brick-faced 7,618-square-meter (82,000 sq. ft.) building are already in place. Located on a 7.3-hectare (18-acre) parcel within the overall 82.2-hectare (203 acre) tract, it will house 32 classrooms, according to Edifice Project Manager Derek Carpenter. Composed of structural steel and load-bearing masonry outer walls with a drywall interior, the single-story elementary school includes a lobby and administrative offices. Now about 35 percent complete, the building is expected to be finished by July of this year, Carpenter explained.

He said the weather slowed operations on several occasions with several thunderstorms late in the year which produced several inches of rain. “We were hit by the thunderstorms before the framework had been erected,” Carpenter explained. “The storms were accompanied by a great deal of rain which delayed construction over a period of five or six weeks.”

Smith said the overall plan includes a number of projects surrounding the two schools. “Plans call for two multi-purpose soccer fields,” Smith explained, “four softball fields designed in a pinwheel fashion, a baseball field, and preparation for two future soccer fields.

“The target date for finishing the school is sometime in the year 2001.”

He said Thompson Grading will handle most of the groundwork for the overall project, including foundations, interior roadways, storm sewers and sanitary sewers. The earthwork includes moving 384,048 meters (420,000 yds.) of soil and construction of 39,014 linear meters (128,000 linear ft.) of curbing and gutters. “More than 20 pieces of equipment will be used to complete development of the 203-acre site,” Smith said, adding that more than 200 workers are scheduled to take part in the daily operations during construction.

Smith also said site clearing operations were initially slowed by heavy rains last year and three storms earlier this year which eventually brought a snow covering. The worst delay, both he and Carpenter agreed, was the record snowfall late in January when the more than two feet of snow blanketed the fields and equipment. “It set us back two and a half weeks,” Smith explained. “Local roads were impassable and workers were unable to reach the site. That type of heavy, wet covering can also cause considerable delays when you’re at a point of preparing a site before actual construction begins,” Smith said.

Three roadways will be developed for the complex which is located in a scenic rural atmosphere opposite a sprawling farm with fields of grazing horses and a small lake. The school site is about a dozen miles from Raleigh. One entryway is a collector road that will join the two schools, and another off West Lake Road.

Equipment on site includes three Komatsu excavating units, one John Deere, one Caterpillar 311 excavator, three Cat 615 pans, one Cat 623 pan, two off-road dump trucks, two Cat D250 dump units, two Cat 815 rollers, one Cat D8, two Cat D6s, one Cat D7, as well as a Cat 416 B back loader.

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