Storm's gone, but officials warn of black ice on roads

jmcfadden@heraldonline.com, jzou@heraldonline,comFebruary 13, 2014 

A three-day winter storm that dumped more than 6 inches of snow in parts of York, Chester and Lancaster counties ended Thursday, providing residents, business operators and crews the opportunity to begin clearing away sidewalks and roads.

The region began thawing out from the worst winter storm the state has seen in a decade, but travel was treacherous and scattered power outages from downed lines remained in parts of the tri-county area.

Officials expected roads to refreeze Thursday night, creating conditions for black ice. Local schools will remain closed for a third day Friday.

Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-40s Friday, before rising into the 50s Sunday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan McAvoy said parts of York County received 8 to 10 inches of snow this week, while Chester County residents saw less than 8 inches. Lancaster County received a similar amount, but with more freezing rain.

The state Department of Transportation will continue de-icing efforts on interstates, primary routes and bridges.

John Welborn, a DOT inspector based in York County, said his office received “tons of phone calls” from residents requesting more roads to be serviced, but explained that roads with highest motorist volumes are prioritized.

“It just wouldn’t be cost effective,” Welborn said of clearing less-traveled roads. Crews will focus primarily on plowing efforts and applying brine and salt to roads, though freezing temperatures Thursday night could result in black ice.

More than 9,000 people in York, Chester and Lancaster counties reported a power loss sometime Thursday, after sleet and freezing rain late Wednesday compromised utility lines. Statewide, at least 300,000 people were affected by outages.

By 3 p.m. Thursday, York Electric Cooperative had restored power to close to 1,000 customers in the Rock Hill and Catawba areas.

“Compared to the rest of the state, we were very fortunate,” said Marc Howie of York Electric Cooperative. Howie said the outage was due to a transmission problem at a substation serviced by Duke Energy.

Outages in Lancaster and Chester counties were more widespread, with close to 5,000 customers in Lancaster County and 3,500 in Chester County affected.. Duke Energy crews worked into Thursday evening to restore service.

The state was declared a federal disaster area on Wednesday night by President Barack Obama after a request on Tuesday by Gov. Nikki Haley.

The South Carolina Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers headquartered in Rock Hill assisted with cleanup efforts statewide, sending several dump trucks hauling salt. The unit also sent out wrecker teams to assist the S.C. Highway Patrol with stranded vehicles.

In the Rich Hill area of Lancaster County, a high-voltage power line hit the porch of a house, but residents and the house were unharmed, according to Darren Player, deputy director of Lancaster emergency management.

No emergency shelters were activated in Lancaster and Chester counties. Instead residents were advised to stay home and off roads. Warming centers in Rock Hill were filled to capacity Thursday as volunteers urged all clients to stay indoors.

A fire broke out on Adams Street in Rock Hill on Wednesday night after a burning log rolled out from a fireplace and onto the living room floor, according to Fire Battalion Chief Rusty Myers. Damage was estimated at $6,000, but no injuries were reported and the homeowner returned to his home after the fire was put out.

York County’s Access buses, which provide subsidized transportation to area seniors and those without personal vehicles, ran limited service on Thursday in Rock Hill and Fort Mill, making only about 30 drop-offs countywide by midday. The buses gave priority to dialysis patients, but ran on a three-hour delay.

Piedmont Medical Center reported one ambulance getting stalled on roads with a patient on board, but were able to transfer the patient to another truck, according to spokesperson Amy Faulkenberry. The hospital reported tough conditions with several ambulances having difficulty navigating roads.

In Sharon, Herschel Lee Brown opened his convenience store and gas station as planned, though with less staff due to unplowed roads. “We’re a convenience store and it’s not convenient if it’s not open,” Brown said.

His store, Brownie’s, is a designated fueling station for local fire departments in western York County and has a backup generator. The station also sells propane tanks and kerosene.

“We’re keeping everything rolling out there,” said Brown. “Now, if only they plowed the roads.”

The Herald’s Andrew Dys and Don Worthington contributed

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