Relief ahead for area motorists after braving icy roads

scetrone@heraldonline.comJanuary 25, 2013 

— York County is in for warmer weather after a winter storm glazed the region with sleet and freezing rain Friday, closing schools and causing dozens of wrecks.

Forecasters said freezing temperatures will rise after daybreak Saturday and could reach 50 degrees by mid-afternoon. But roads could remain icy and dangerous through the morning.

Frozen precipitation came earlier than emergency responders expected Friday and fell for several hours, coating roads and bridges with ice that sent cars sliding into ditches and one another.

The S.C. Highway Patrol responded to 173 calls between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the seven-county region, of which York County is the largest.

“We have had dozens more (calls) since then,” Trooper Billy Elder said.

While a final count of accidents in York, Chester and Lancaster counties wasn’t available Friday evening, the Highway Patrol’s real-time traffic log showed that York County had more than 50 wrecks Friday afternoon.

The Department of Transportation was called to put down sand at several crash sites.

Sheriff’s deputies assisted troopers and responded to wrecks around the county.

“We’ve been swamped since about 10 this morning,” York County Sheriff spokesman Trent Faris said. “There were people sliding off roads left and right.”

No fatalities were reported.

At least three accidents happened near schools as families picked up students for early dismissal.

All schools and most government offices in York, Chester and Lancaster counties closed early.

Although precipitation tapered off by late afternoon, a winter weather advisory remained in effect through the night.

Temperatures were expected to plunge, freezing wet roads and paving the way for black ice, which makes driving treacherous.

“You could have some problems with the roads, that’s for sure,” said Scott Krentz, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Forecasters urged drivers to stay home if possible. If on roads, authorities said use “extreme caution.”

In all, the county received about a tenth of an inch of precipitation, said Cotton Howell, York County’s emergency management director.

The state Department of Transportation said icy patches were reported Friday afternoon on roads throughout the county.

In Rock Hill, some of the worst areas were on Celanese Road, Red River Road and Oakland Avenue, particularly on the bridge over the railroad tracks near downtown, Rock Hill Police Lt. Brad Redfearn said.

No serious injuries were reported.

No downed power lines or trees had been reported late Friday, according to Howell. But many accidents were reported on bridges.

Emergency crews were prepared for the storm, but it came earlier than they expected.

“We were not looking for it to start until 2 p.m.,” Howell said, “but we got it at about 9 a.m.”

DOT workers sprayed an ice-melting chemical on roads Thursday. It helped a lot, officials said, but the rain diluted it and washed it away in several areas.

The temperature will be about 23 degrees Saturday morning but will rise through the day, forecasters said.

Temperatures could reach the mid-60s by Monday.

By the numbers

As of 5 p.m. Friday, the S.C. Department of Transportation has deployed the following resources in response to the winter storm:

329 - Maintenance employees actively involved in road operations

896 - Tons of salt (cumulative total)

443 - Tons of sand (cumulative total)

259,040 - Gallons of salt brine and cacl used (cumulative total)

144- Equipment in-use (snow plows, salt spreaders, sprayers and graders)

RAW VIDEO of the ice storm below

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