August 28, 2015

Budget leaders promise to find money for counties hit by 2014 winter storm

Ice weighed down thousands of trees in February 2014, causing millions in cleanup costs (Image: Sumter Police Dept.)

Ice weighed down thousands of trees in February 2014, causing millions in cleanup costs (Image: Sumter Police Dept.)

Budget leaders in the South Carolina General Assembly have pledged to do what they can to help 22 counties affected by last year’s severe ice storm that downed thousands of trees and required months of cleanup. But it won’t come in the House proposal expected to pass this week.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday turned down a request to set aside $10 million for counties affected by the February 2014 storm nicknamed “Winter Storm Pax.” The storm caused power outages for more than 350,000 customers at its peak and the fallen trees and debris left many rural areas unreachable for more than a week.

Legislators from those 22 counties that were covered by a disaster declaration (predominantly in the Midlands) sought the funds to help repay the cleanup and repair costs. “I think it’s time that our state give back to our counties and try to make our counties whole again,” State Rep. Bill Hixon, R-N. Augusta, said on the House floor. “It means a lot. They dipped into their savings account and did everything they could to try to get our roads back to where they were.”

Hixon said the counties spent $73 million in total cleanup costs from the storm, on top of the nearly $164 million in work handled by the state Department of Transportation. While the federal government reimburses most cleanup costs, counties are still left with $18 million out of their own books. While Gov. Nikki Haley requested $16 million to cover county cleanup costs last spring, the money did not make it to the final budget.

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Hang gliders crash into trees in Greenville County, 1 rescued

A hang glider pilot had to be rescued after crashing into a tree in Northern Greenville County, according to the Glassy Mountain Fire Department. The call for help came in around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

 Photo from Glassy Mountain Fire Department’s Facebook page.


Photo from Glassy Mountain Fire Department’s Facebook page.

First responders found one hang glider in a tree about 15 to 20 feet off the ground near the 13th hole at The Cliffs at Glassy Golf Course. The hang glider pilot told rescuers he was OK, but was unable to get down from the tree, according to Glassy Mountain Fire Department Public Information Officer Jarrod Parker. Due to the location and complexity of the rescue, the Greenville County Emergency Response Team was called in for a high-angle rescue.

The team included first responders from Boiling Springs, Berea, Piedmont Park, Taylors and the Donaldson Fire Department. First responders spotted a second hang glider in another tree. “The second individual was thrown due to what we are understanding from both of them, to a change of wind pattern,” Parker told South Carolina Radio Network. “He landed into a tree, but was able to self-extricate himself.”

There were no injuries to the hang glider pilots or the rescuers, Parker said. The hang glider pilots blamed a changing weather pattern for the crashes.

Due to the location and complexity of the rescue, the Greenville County Emergency Response Team was called in for a high-angle rescue.

Snow falls in Upstate, but it is less than expected

Traffic drives through an estimated 1-2 inches of snow in Cherokee County (Image: SCDOT)

Traffic drives through an estimated 1-2 inches of snow in Cherokee County (Image: SCDOT)

Snow did indeed fall in South Carolina’s Upstate Wednesday night and Thursday morning — just not as much as forecasters predicted.

The winter storm moved out of South Carolina by mid-morning Thursday, leaving less than two inches of snow at all but the highest mountain elevations. The National Weather Service said no frozen precipitation was falling in the state early Thursday. Rural areas around Bethune and Chesterfield in the state’s northeastern corner also recorded between 1-2 inches of snow.

A winter weather advisory expired late in the morning. Air temperatures are generally approaching 40 degrees Upstate and mid-to-upper 40s across the rest of the state.

The National Weather Service reports the mountains in northern Greenville County got up to 4 inches of snow. The Greenville-Spartanburg area got less than 2 inches. About 1 inch was reported in the Rock Hill region. The highest levels of 6.5 inches were estimated in the Oconee County mountains near Georgia and North Carolina borders.

While Gov. Nikki Haley had declared a state of emergency to galvanize the state’s disaster response agencies, there was comparatively little need. Little more than 3,000 outages were reported statewide, with a majority in the Charleston area outside of the snowfall.

The state Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol reported no interstate closures.

 

Governor declares state of emergency for 31 counties as winter storm approaches

Image released by the National Weather Service showing predicted snowfall levels between Wednesday and Friday (Image: NWS)

Image released by the National Weather Service showing predicted snowfall levels between Wednesday and Friday (Image: NWS)

Gov. Nikki Haley has declared a state of emergency for 31 counties in South Carolina.

The governor’s action automatically activates the state’s Emergency Operations Plan, which allows agencies to coordinate their emergency resources. The state’s Emergency Operations Center has also been activated.

“Really the message everybody needs to know is once it hits 5:00, let’s clear out. Let’s head home,” the governor told reporters roughly an hour before signing the order. “Go ahead and start advising people now to make sure that we clear out earlier this afternoon as opposed to later, especially when it comes to the upper part of the state.”

National Weather Service forecasters are currently predicting about three to seven inches of snow in the Upstate and northern Midlands areas, from McCormick to Marlboro Counties.

The 31 counties affected by the order are Abbeville, Aiken, Anderson, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Edgefield, Fairfield, Florence, Greenville, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Lee, Lexington, Newberry, Marlboro, McCormick, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union, and York counties.

Small amounts of snow in Upstate & Piedmont, more expected Wednesday

Greenville neighborhood on Tuesday morning (Image posted to Twitter by SC Natl. Guard)

Greenville neighborhood on Tuesday morning (Image posted to Twitter by SC Natl. Guard)

The first of two winter storms brought less than an inch of snow to the Upstate and a slight dusting to the Midlands.

But forecasters are really eyeing what’s coming next: much more measurable amounts of snow in the Upstate. Current models predict between 3 to 6 inches falling overnight Wednesday in Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, Union, and York counties. A Winter Weather Advisory is currently in effect for those counties. A Winter Storm Watch is in effect for the rest of the Piedmont region, and drops down to include Chesterfield, Fairfield, Lancaster, Kershaw, and Newberry counties in the Midlands.

Meanwhile, the Midlands could see snow as well on Wednesday evening, with forecasts calling for no more than a few inches of accumulation in the northern counties of the region. But the temperature is predicted to hover around the critical 32-degree mark, so the precipitation may also fall as rain in southern areas of the region.

On Tuesday morning, a half-inch of snow was reported at the National Weather Service office in Greer. Temperatures remained below freezing all morning and are only expected to reach the mid-30s by afternoon. Schools in Greenville, Oconee, and Pickens counties were closed due to the weather, according to the Greenville News. [Read more…]