A near-miss on snow, but winter not done with Rock Hill area

A file photo shows a winter scene on U.S. 21 in Fort Mill. York County saw snow flurries Wednesday, but bitter cold is expected to persist for the area into the weekend.
A file photo shows a winter scene on U.S. 21 in Fort Mill. York County saw snow flurries Wednesday, but bitter cold is expected to persist for the area into the weekend. tkimball@heraldonline.com

A major winter storm that brought measurable snow to the Carolinas coast delivered only a few snow flurries to the Rock Hill area Wednesday, but forecasters say another surge of very cold air is poised to move in.

The storm system, responsible for snow that brought traffic to a near-standstill in Charleston, is forecast to become a major Nor’easter as it plows up the East Coast and brings heavy snow and high winds to the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

A few flurries were reported Wednesday afternoon in York, Chester and Lancaster counties. National Weather Service meteorologists say heavier snow was falling for part of the afternoon several thousand feet off the ground, but a layer of very dry air near the surface prevented the snow from reaching the ground.

Instead, snow fell in places where it is rarely reported. By late afternoon Wednesday, reports of 5 to 6 inches were common around Charleston. The ground was covered as close as eastern Chesterfield County, about 40 miles east of Rock Hill.

“In any case, we’re still seeing the very impressive low pressure off the coast bombing out, bringing incredible snow to the S.C. coast,” said Trisha Palmer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Greer.

The Weather Service decided Wednesday morning to issue winter weather advisories for slippery roads in Chester and Lancaster counties, but the dry air near the surface kept roads in good condition.

While the Rock Hill area escaped the snow, it will not evade the next push of frigid air, forecasters say.

Despite the return of sunshine Thursday, afternoon temperatures will struggle to climb above freezing, and similar conditions are forecast Friday and Saturday. Morning lows Friday and Saturday could drop into single digits in some areas.

The storm began Wednesday morning with freezing rain across north Florida and southeast Georgia. Precipitation also started as freezing rain in the Charleston area before changing over to snow. During the morning commute, portions of Interstate 526 in Charleston were closed due to icing and wrecks.

“We’ve had a continuous salt application process since about 7 this morning,” said James Law, of the S.C. Department of Transportation in Charleston. He added to coastal residents, “If you don’t need to drive, don’t drive.”

A half-inch of ice accumulated in Brunswick, Ga., where thousands of customers were without electricity late Wednesday afternoon.

Schools were closed Wednesday from Charleston to Myrtle Beach, and many businesses in the Charleston area – including major tourist attractions – also were shut.

Flight schedules are expected to be interrupted for the next two days, and officials at Charlotte Douglas International Airport said that American Airlines and other major carriers are waiving flight-cancellation fees for travelers in the Southeast. Snow in coastal Georgia forced the closure of the Savannah Airport at 10 a.m. Wednesday.