March 2, 2015

Small amount of snow predicted for upper reaches of South Carolina

Ice formed on the powerlines during a 2014 winter storm that effectively shut down the Aiken region for a week

Ice formed on the powerlines during a 2014 winter storm that effectively shut down the Aiken region for a week

Forecasters say small amounts of snow and sleet will fall in the upper reaches of South Carolina Monday afternoon, but the weather will change to freezing rain by evening.

The National Weather Service does not expect much more than one inch of snow along the northern counties that border North Carolina: Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg, Cherokee, and York counties. Much of the Piedmont will get a wintry mix, but no accumulation is expected. The heaviest ice is expected to stick to trees and power lines in areas around Greenville, Spartanburg and Rock Hill and points north.

The winter weather warning is in effect until Tuesday morning.

Forecasters expect around a quarter-inch of ice. A half-inch is the threshold where widespread power outages can be expected.

Much of the Savannah River and Lakelands region was hit by a heavy ice storm last year that knocked out power for an estimated 348,000 customers and created an estimated 2.5 million cubic yards of debris from fallen tries and limbs.

According to the Associated Press, the Upstate’s last major ice storm was in December 2005.

Red Flag Fire Alert issued across state

Image: SC Forestry Commission

Image: SC Forestry Commission

State forestry officials are discouraging outdoor burning this weekend, saying the breezy and dry conditions make it more likely a fire will get out of control.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission said the alert that went into effect Friday does not outlaw outdoor burning, but is a warning that fires can easily spread under the conditions. The alert will remain in effect until it’s lifted by the commission. The agency says its fire managers will be continuously monitoring the situation throughout the weekend.

“The conditions are right for fires to escape fairly easily,” Forestry Commission fire chief Darryl Jones said. “If they do escape, it’s going to be harder to stop them from spreading.”

While a Red Flag Fire Alert is not an official ban, it does trigger ordinances in some counties that restrict outdoor fires. An outdoor burning ban is currently in effect for Lexington County, according to county public safety director David Kerr.

Bill Dubensky contributed to this report

Cold temps for South Carolina this week

National Weather Service photo.

National Weather Service photo.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) is encouraging everyone in the state to be prepared for below freezing conditions that are expected this week. The National Weather Service forecasters predict average temperatures to be around freezing beginning on Thursday morning and running through the rest of the week. Forecasters do not expect rain or snow.

The “Severe Winter Weather in South Carolina” Guide is currently available for download here at SCEMD’s website and copies are at every Walgreen’s store statewide.  The Guide contains useful preparation materials such as:

South Carolinians unaccustomed to dealing with life-threatening aspects of severe cold should remember to keep exposure to cold weather to a minimum. Frostbite is harmful and painful. Hypothermia, or low body temperature, can be lethal, and it is particularly hard on infants and the elderly. When the weather turns cold, don’t go outdoors unless you have to. If you must go out, dress in layers and cover your ears, head and hands.   Remember, high wind speeds dramatically increase the effects of cold temperatures by increasing the “wind chill factor.

[Read more…]

Forecasters to begin issuing storm surge warnings during hurricanes

An example of how a storm surge graphic would look when issued (Image: NHC)

An example of how a storm surge graphic would look when issued (Image: NHC/NOAA)

Meteorologists with the National Hurricane Center will begin issuing storm surge warnings once the new hurricane season begins in June, saying the surges are a more dangerous threat than the strong winds which usually accompany a Hurricane watch or warning alert.

An announcement from the center on Thursday said forecasters will also introduce new graphics that are designed to introduce the concept of a watch or warning specific to the storm surge hazard. Officials say surges and flooding traditionally kill more people than winds when a storm makes landfall.

“Having separate warnings for these two hazards should provide emergency managers, the media, and the general public better guidance on the hazards they face when tropical cyclones threaten,” the announcement said.

The graphics will be used on an experimental basis for the next two years and feedback will be considered during that time. The announcement said the graphics will demonstrate which regions are most likely to flood during a storm, while the warnings will alert the public to imminent danger — much like tornado or hurricane warnings do now.

Here is a sample surge statement from the Hazards section of a Public Advisory:
HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND
——————————————
STORM SURGE…The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally
dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. There
is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36 hours along the North Carolina coast
from Cape Fear to Duck…including the Outer Banks, the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, and
along adjacent rivers and estuaries. For a depiction of areas at risk, see the new National
Weather Service experimental Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic. This is a life-threatening
situation. Persons located within the warning areas should take all necessary actions to protect
life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions. Promptly
follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials.

All of South Carolina in early stages of drought, committee says

Image shows the impact across South Carolina (Courtesy: SCDNR)

Image shows the impact across South Carolina. Click to enlarge (Courtesy: SCDNR)

All of South Carolina is now considered to be in early drought stage, according to a declaration by a state committee Thursday.

The Drought Response Committee voted Thursday to upgrade the entire state’s drought status to the lowest level of “incipient.” In September, the committee placed nine counties in the Midlands and Savannah River regions in the incipient level. But the decision came only after some debate, especially as most weather forecasts predict rain this upcoming weekend.

“There was a lot of discussion about whether to upgrade certain counties, especially in the Upstate since there was not overwhelming support by all indicators,” State Climatologist Hope Mizzell said. “However, the committee decided to err on the side of caution and upgrade the declaration.”

Mizzell said low rainfall this fall was of concern, along with falling lake levels. A gauge in the town of Bluffton recorded only 1.44 inches of rain over the past two months, while an Aiken gauge recorded only 1.58 inches. Meanwhile, she said Lake Jocassee was nearly ten feet below full pool.

It’s the first time the entire state has been under a drought designation since April 2013. Previously only nine counties were considered to be in incipient drought. The committee recognized the forecast for heavy rain next week, but decided to upgrade the incipient status statewide. “It’s just almost like a watch,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “Hopefully, we won’t be in it very long. Hopefully we can downgrade quickly if we get these rainfalls.”

The incipient drought declaration is followed by moderate, severe and then extreme status.

State Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said the weather earlier this year has impacted crops.

“While the dry weather this fall has contributed to a good and productive harvest season, the lack of timely rainfall during the 2014 growing season was a challenge in some parts of the state,” he said in a statement. “Irrigation boosted yields for many producers, which is an important reminder that we stay vigilant in planning and managing the use of our water resources.”