April 23, 2014

South Carolina readies for snow, icy conditions

The Midlands and Lowcountry last saw significant amounts of snow in January 2011 (File)

The Midlands and Lowcountry last saw significant amounts of snow in January 2011 (File)

Parts of the Palmetto State will likely be under several inches of snow Tuesday night, as forecasters are predicting between two to five inches could fall from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon for the Midlands and along the coast.

The Midlands are under a Winter Storm Warning, with the National Weather Service calling for mostly sleet during the day Tuesday, before switching to snow in the late afternoon. Dangerous ice accumulations are also possible. Forecasters predict much of the Pee Dee west of Conway will see three to six inches of snow, while Myrtle Beach and Georgetown will get about two to four inches. Communities north and west of Charleston are also expected to see two to four inches of snow. The snow/sleet mix will last longer in the Beaufort and Jasper county region, leading to less accumulation than in the Midlands.

Forecasters expect the snow to stop on Wednesday morning. While temperatures will be below freezing in the Upstate, the National Weather Service is calling for less likelihood of precipitation, meaning roughly and inch or two in the Greenville-Spartanburg region. However, Lakelands counties like Abbeville, Greenwood and Newberry will likely see similar snowfalls as the Midlands.

State Emergency Management Division spokesman Derrec Becker says the agency is expecting to open its emergency operations center on Tuesday.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation follows a priority list in selecting which roadways are dusted with salt, sand, and brine. Spokesman Pete Poore said interstates and primary routes (such as federal and major state highways) are considered top priorities. Also considered a priority are roads that lead to emergency facilities like hospitals and fire stations. Lastly are “secondary” routes, he said.

“One good thing in our favor is that we’ve had a couple of days strung together with warm weather,” Poore said. “It’s kept the roads warm to some degree, which will help us in the thawing process and maybe cut down on some of the freezing.”

More than 2,000 SCDOT maintenance employees will be on-call during the storm, Poore said. He added that some crews in counties with little snowfall could head to other parts of the state that are getting heavier amounts. He encouraged residents to visit SCDOT’s website: www.scdot.org and look at “Winter Road Conditions” to see which roads are cleared of snow.

Becker says during the storm, if you don’t have to be on the roads, stay home. “Go slow. Take your time,” he said. “Should you get into an accident, dial *HP immediately to get the Highway Patrol and bring some assistance.”

Some school districts in the Lowcountry and Midlands have already canceled classes on Tuesday (and may do so again on Wednesday). The University of South Carolina, Coastal Carolina University, and S.C. State University have followed suit. State agencies also plan to shutter offices in nine counties during the storm (see list here).

South Carolina Electric & Gas, which offers power for much of the affected areas, said its crews are standing by if power outages are reported. To report a power outage, you can call 1-888-333-4465. You can also report and check the status of your power outage online from your Internet-ready mobile device or phone by visiting www.sceg.com/mobile and clicking on storm center.

Becker said, if you do lose power, make sure you have a winter storm supply kit that includes a portable radio, flashlights, batteries, blankets, and extra heating fuel.

“Firewood, food, fuel, anything that your family normally uses every day, we ask that you have enough on hand that you can survive off of for at least 72 hours or at least three days after any type of emergency.”

Becker warned against operating a portable generator inside the home or turning on a gas oven to keep warm (both could create potentially fatal amounts of carbon monoxide). You may also add winter supplies like rock salt to melt ice and shovels to your disaster supply kit.