After a day of waiting, snow starts to stick in York County

jmcfadden@heraldonline.com and rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comJanuary 28, 2014 

Despite predictions that snow would begin to fall in York, Chester and Lancaster counties by early morning, the white stuff did not begin descending on the area until late Tuesday afternoon --coming after emergency officials spent an entire day planning for flurries and flakes, and schools dismissed their students early.

Forecasters expect snow to continue falling in the area until about 9 a.m. Wednesday, when the wintry blast will taper off and accumulated snow will likely begin to melt. The area saw the snow --which included no predictions for ice-- as the result of an arctic cold front moving through the region towards the coast.

Statewide, the wintry mix prompted Gov. Nikki Haley to declare a state of emergency that placed the S.C. National Guard on active duty, and set up a state emergency operations center where state emergency officials are able to help local and county governments with weather response.

The National Guard also has additional resources, such as four-wheel drive vehicles and wreckers, in its arsenal. Haley’s executive order triggered state laws that protected consumers from price gouging. More than a dozen flights into and out of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport were canceled as the winter storm bore down on the South. Flights to and from Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, New York and Detroit were canceled throughout the day and into the night. A couple of flights were delayed.

Tuesday afternoon, meteorologists placed York, Chester and Lancaster counties under winter storm warnings. All three areas were expected to see more than 3 inches of snow. Officials expected the snow to continue throughout the evening, with accumulation amounts up to 4 inches.

Light snow began falling just before 4 p.m. in Clover and Kings Mountain State Park. The flurries moved to Newport, which saw a steady stream of snowfall.

Customers at Newport Hardware had been in the store all day buying sleds, heaters, flashlights and “snowmelt,” said store owner, Dan Walker.

"Everybody's scared of the power outage," he said.

Walker said he was not worried about the snow, but that it's been a while since he can remember snowfall this significant.

As the snow started falling in York around 4 p.m., WingBonz was one of the few businesses that remained open. Waitress Jenna Moss said they were going to "play it by ear."

"I'm hoping we get a few inches," Moss said. "It'd be nice to have a snow day."

The one concern with the weather, she said, is the cold. Just a few weeks ago, when the temperatures dropped below 20 degrees, her well pump burst. Tuesday night, when temperatures were supposed to dip, she said she was “a little worried."

Outside her home on Hagins Street, Zelma Kirk placed a sheet over her car windshield Tuesday evening. She still planned to report to work at Piedmont Medical Center at 7 a.m.

“I just don’t want to hafta scrape in the morning,” Kirk said. “It’s days like this I wish I had a garage.”

All schools in the Chester County, Lancaster County, Clover, York, Rock Hill and Fort Mill school districts dismissed early, and several after-school and athletic events had already been canceled by Monday evening.

Trudy Amick, stormwater crew supervisor for city of Rock Hill, said that crews were applying brine to major thoroughfare roads throughout Tuesday --paying extra attention to roads near fire stations and Piedmont Medical Center.

The city of Rock Hill has also enlisted the help of Interstate Towing and Fleet Services, a privately-owned towing business based in Rock Hill that serves York County. Owner Christine Shaner said the company has a city contract to back-up emergency vehicles by providing towing services or driving alongside vehicles to provide greater traction.

“It’s not very pleasant for the guys,” Shaner said of her drivers, including her husband, who are on-call for the winter blast. “Our trucks don’t have magic tires, they slide around just like everyone else.” The business also provides support to emergency medical vehicles and S.C. DOT.

Mark Bollinger of Rock Hill Police Department said that vehicles equipped with four-wheel drive were made available to officers on Tuesday night if their regular patrol cars could not handle slicker roads.

By late Tuesday afternoon, local women’s warming center at the Salvation Army had been filled to capacity, according to United Way President Rebecca Melton. Melton added that the men’s warming shelter at Bethel United Methodist Church would be extended its overnight hours.

An emergency shelter was set up in Lancaster County for anyone who lost power or heat during extreme conditions. Residents affected by the weather were encouraged to call (803) 283-4136 for directions.

More highway troopers will monitor the roads throughout the day and Wednesday if snowfall in the Upstate region is persistent, said Lance Cpl. Billy Elder with the Highway Patrol.

Personnel scheduled to be off on Tuesday will be called in to work if need be, and administrative staff will be available to assist with investigations and respond on the road if weather conditions necessitate their involvement, he said.

Meteorologists expected the temperature to fall below 20 degrees between Tuesday night and Wednesday, said Doug Outlaw, a National Weather Service meteorologist, which will cause areas of "compacted snow" and slush to freeze, creating dangerous ice on roadways.

Helping the homeless

The Rev. Ronal King, founder of Christians Feed the Hungry, said Tuesday afternoon he and other volunteers had been working for more than 36 hours to provide propane heaters, kerosene, blankets and a hot meal for the county's homeless, all the way from Boiling Springs to the area around Carowinds in Fort Mill.

King said he planned to spend Tuesday night visiting people and families at campsites in Smyrna, Hickory Grove, McConnells, Bullock Creek, Blackmon Road in Rock Hill and Fort Mill, supplying them with whatever they might need to keep them steady throughout the night. While speaking with The Herald, he was on his way to the line between York and Union counties to provide items to the 39 people he said live in the woods in that area.

"We don't want one weather-related death," he said. "I'm going to be at the most-needed places first. You've got to let them know God loves them, and God cares about them."

By 2 p.m., no snow had fallen, but King thanked God, saying "it's giving us time to get to all these places."

He estimated that he and other volunteers distributed items and clothes to up to 500 people in the span of two days.

Rock Hill’s Renew Our Community center on White Street filled 15 requests for emergency food and helped nearly 30 clients whose utilities would possibly be cut off, said Jenny Overman, ROC spokeswoman. In the last 30 days, the organization has given out $750 in kerosene vouchers, though the group still needs more donations for the heaters, along with men’s gloves, snacks and breakfast items.

ROC will extend hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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The State contributed

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