A wintry blast is headed to the region on Tuesday with forecasters predicting anywhere from 2-3 inches of snow throughout York, Chester and Lancaster counties, causing most local schools to dismiss early.
In York County, a winter weather advisory for snow is in effect from noon Tuesday until 9 a.m. Wednesday
Winter storm warnings have been issued for Lancaster and Chester counties, in effect from 11 a.m. Tuesday to 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Chester and Lancaster schools will operate on a half day schedule.
An early start to the snowfall is expected for the Rock Hill area, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Doug Outlaw. Outlaw said that flurries are expected to start sometime around 9 or 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning, gaining a steady fall during the afternoon.
Accumulations are estimated at 2 inches, with areas further south, like Great Falls in Chester County, picking up closer to 3 inches. The Charlotte area will most likely receive less than 2 inches of accumulation, Outlaw said.
The snow is expected to taper off by Wednesday morning.
Local maintenance crews from the state Department of Transportation applied a salt brine to interstates and roads Monday afternoon to get ahead of the cold temperatures on Tuesday, which is expected to dip into the teens with highs around 30 degrees.
In addition to prepping the roads, crews will be on standby with plows and other equipment to clear roads, said Brad Trout, resident maintenance engineer for York County.
Outlaw said this blast is likely the last real severe cold for the region this winter and called the snowfall a rare occurrence. Mild wind chill is expected to make temperatures feel about five degrees lower, Outlaw added.
Areas further downstate like Columbia are projected to receive at least 4 inches of snow.
The state House and Senate in South Carolina will not meet this week because of anticipated snowy weather for the Columbia area.
"We're really doing it for the not just for the protection of other members who have to drive 150 miles, but the series of committee meetings, the people coming to the General Assembly to meet with their legislators on a variety of issues, it puts them at risk," Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland, said.
Forecasters say they are confident significant snowfall will take place south and southeast of Charlotte, yet they arent sure if the blanket of precipitation will cover the Queen City.
But our confidence is growing that areas southeast of I-85 will see accumulating snow from this system, National Weather Service meteorologist Jake Wimberley said late Monday morning.
Winter storm watches and warnings are posted from east Texas all the way across the Deep South to the Carolinas coast, and it appears as if the weather system will bring snow, sleet and freezing rain to places that rarely see it, including New Orleans, the Florida Panhandle, and coastal sections of Georgia and South Carolina.
Wimberley said it is possible the southern part of a county in the Charlotte area could have a significant snow accumulation while the northern part gets a dusting.
There will be that fine of a line, he said.
One thing is for sure, Wimberley added.
It will be snow, he said. It will be cold enough for snow.
The heaviest snow is expected in a corridor stretching from Columbia to Fayetteville and then up to northeastern North Carolina. Raleigh, like Charlotte, is at the edge of the expected snow area.
And along the coast, a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain is forecast. There could be enough freezing rain to cause widespread power outages, meteorologists warn.
Steve Lyttle with The Charlotte Observer and The State newspaper contributed