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Winter storm could bring snow, sleet, frozen rain to York, Chester, Lancaster area

Snow, road-clogging sleet and dangerous accumulations of ice are forecast for the Rock Hill.

The first first major storm of the winter season is hitting Carolinas. Residents and utility and road crews rushed to make final preparations Saturday for what is expected to be a multi-day event.

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for York and Lancaster counties, where the National Weather Service says several inches of snow and sleet are expected. Forecasters also warn that freezing rain Sunday afternoon could leave enough ice to down trees and cause power outages.

A Winter Weather Advisory, for lesser levels of ice accumulation, is posted for Chester County, which meteorologists think will escape the worst of the system. Light rain in advance of the system was reported Saturday morning in the Rock Hill area.

Lighter amounts of rain, freezing rain and sleet are expected Sunday evening, possibly changing back to snow late Sunday night and early Monday. While snow and sleet will cause headaches for motorists, some authorities said Saturday they were concerned about the possibility of major ice accumulations.

Justin Lane, of the National Weather Service’s office in Greer, said the latest computer guidance points to “warning-level accumulations of ice” in a corridor stretching across York County. Northern Lancaster County also would be included in that swath, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service’s forecast calls for snowfall ranging from around an inch in extreme southern York County to about six inches in the northwest part of the county. Around two inches of snow and sleet is forecast for the immediate Rock Hill area.

Mostly rain and freezing rain is predicted for Chester County.

Ice accumulations of around two-tenths of an inch are forecast for a swath across central York and northern Lancaster counties.

Authorities say, generally speaking, ice buildup of a quarter-inch or more causes widespread power outages. But Duke Energy officials said Friday they expect “widespread, multiple-day outages.”

Company spokeswoman Meredith Archie said Duke has 1,500 extra repair crews ready, but officials add that any repairs of downed lines could be delayed if road conditions are bad. S.C. Department of Transportation officials says their crews will be ready.

“(Interstate) 77 is our main goal,” Ron Wright, of the DOT’s office in Rock Hill, said. “We don’t leave 77 until it is in good shape.”

Wright said municipalities in the Rock Hill area also will work on their main roads.

“S.C. DOT is doing a joint effort with municipalities in York County to keep roads clear,” he said.

Wright said crews began spreading a brine solution on Interstates 85 and 77 on Thursday, and that job continued into Saturday. The brine is designed to help prevent water on roadways from freezing. Sleet would be the biggest problem for highways, as it tends to freeze quickly on road surfaces.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle