Road crews spread brine on highways and Rock Hill-area residents flocked to grocery stores Tuesday in advance of what is expected to be the first accumulating snow of the winter.
A fast-moving cold front and storm system is forecast to bring 1 to 3 inches of snow Wednesday morning to York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for York and Chester counties, and a Winter Storm Warning is posted for Lancaster County. Despite the difference in the types of advisories, similar snowfall totals are expected in all three counties.
Precipitation is predicted to begin shortly after midnight, possibly as rain, and then change quickly to snow as temperatures plummet below freezing. The snow is forecast to taper off by mid-morning Wednesday.
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Some school system closings for Wednesday were announced already Tuesday night. Officials in the Rock Hill area said they were monitoring conditions and would make announcements by 5 a.m. at the latest.
While snow amounts are not expected to be heavy, the precipitation is forecast to fall during the morning commute. And with temperatures predicted to be at or slightly below freezing, meteorologists warn that road conditions could get treacherous.
In addition, temperatures are expected to drop into the teens Wednesday night, so any moisture left on area roadways would re-freeze, causing problems with black ice Thursday morning.
The S.C. Department of Transportation said it began spreading a brine solution on roadways Sunday, and efforts were stepped up Tuesday. The DOT says it has 1,100 pieces of equipment available to deal with snow.
In addition to putting down the brine, which is designed to melt snow as it falls and prevent ice from forming on roads, DOT officials said they were prepared to deal with accumulating snow.
“We’re also placing salt and calcium chloride in our trucks, in case snow begins to accumulate on the roads,” said Steve Altman, of the DOT office in Columbia.
The same system expected to impact the Carolinas was responsible for dropping freezing rain, sleet and snow Tuesday in a wide part of the South, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Airline officials reported more than 700 flight cancellations Tuesday in Houston alone. Many other airports across the South also were impacted. Officials at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte says carriers such as American and Delta are issuing travel waivers for flights in the Southeast, allowing passengers to rebook flights without penalties.
And Charlotte Douglas International officials said they would begin deicing planes Tuesday evening and continue doing so while the storm lasts.
Social media indicated grocery stores across the Rock Hill area were doing brisk business Tuesday evening.
The National Weather Service has been playing it safe with snowfall predictions, because “clipper” systems such as the one expected to affect the Carolinas typically lose most of their moisture as they cross the Appalachians. However, weather computer models insisted Tuesday that this system would be atypical.
The computer models predicted that while the storm system would lose intensity in the mountains, it would regain strength as it pushed into the Piedmont early Wednesday morning. That is why the lightest snowfall predictions are for the northwest part of South Carolina and the North Carolina foothills.
The Weather Service is predicting 1 to 3 inches across most of the Rock Hill area but says 2 to 4 inches are possible in northern Lancaster County, bordering Union County, and in Chesterfield County. The heaviest snow is expected in a corridor from northeast Lancaster and Chesterfield counties north to Greensboro and Raleigh.
The snow is expected to end by mid to late morning Wednesday, and some sunshine is possible in the afternoon. But the storm system will usher in very cold air, and meteorologists say temperatures will barely crawl above freezing Wednesday afternoon.
Then overnight lows in the Wednesday could cause road problems Thursday morning.
“We expect areas of black ice on roadways and elevated surfaces, likely causing slippery roads and hazardous travel conditions for Thursday morning’s commute,” says Sandy LaCorte, of the National Weather Service office in Greer.
A warm-up is forecast to begin Thursday, with highs in the 40s. By the weekend, afternoon temperatures are predicted to be in the low 60s.