April 26, 2015

Record power usage reported as temperatures stayed below freezing overnight


Crews clean up damage from a winter storm in Saluda County earlier this week. (Image: SCDOT)

Unusually extreme cold temperatures across South Carolina on Friday morning led utilities to report an electric demand record as customers tried to keep warm.

South Carolina Electric & Gas reported its predominantly Midlands and Lowcountry customers used 4,970 megawatts of electricity during the 8 a.m. hour Friday. The previous record was 4,926 megawatts set in the summer of 2007.

Duke Energy Carolinas, whose South Carolina customers are primarily in the Upstate region, reported 21,101 megawatt-hours from 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. That exceeded the previous all-time peak record of 20,799 megawatt-hours set on January 30, 2014.

Duke Energy Progress, which covers the state’s northern and Pee Dee region, noted 15,575 megawatt-hours, in the same span. That exceeded the previous all-time peak record of 14,519 megawatt-hours set on January 8, 2015.

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More than 1,400 incidents reported along SC roads from winter storm

A fallen tree blocks part of Interstate 26 in Newberry County (Image: SCDOT)

A fallen tree blocks part of Interstate 26 in Newberry County (Image: SCDOT)

While the winter storm that hit the Upstate and Piedmont moves out of the state, highway officials say they’re still cleaning up the mess left behind.

Tallies from the Highway Patrol showed more than 1,400 incidents along South Carolina roads that were attributed to the winter storm as of 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

721 collisions and 434 trees or downed power lines were reported on South Carolina roadways from Monday afternoon to Tuesday morning, according to the Department of Public Safety. More than half of the collisions were in the Troop 3 region (Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens, and Spartanburg counties) alone. Another 208 collisions were reported in the predominantly rural Troop 5 region (Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Lancaster, Union, York).

More than 246 stranded drivers and passengers were assisted statewide, while 88 abandoned vehicles were logged along highways and secondary roads across South Carolina.

The National Weather Service reported roughly a quarter-inch of ice had accumulated in most of the Upstate and Catawba regions, creating dangerous driving conditions. Highway Patrol spokesman Trooper David Jones warned the temperature is expected to fall below freezing again on Tuesday night, meaning some black ice could remain on less-traveled rural roads.

More than 100,000 South Carolina customers lost power at one point during the storm. That number had only dropped to 92,000 by 1:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the state Emergency Management Division.

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.

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