Enquirer Herald

Sleet, freezing rain could cause power loss

While Monday's storm started off as all snow, officials are worried a change to sleet and freezing rain could cause crashes and power outages. The high temperature today will hover around freezing.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service said freezing rain and sleet was already affecting Spartanburg and areas of Union County around 1:30 p.m. That meant it was only a matter of hours, maybe just one, before it's over York and Chester Counties.

Governor Mark Sanford has declared a State of Emergency due to ongoing severe winter weather affecting most of South Carolina. A State of Emergency Declaration allows State agencies to quickly respond to the needs of the citizens, reassign personnel and deploy vehicles and equipment to respond to the incident.

More than 350 law enforcement officials from the Highway Patrol, SLED and Department of Natural Resources are responding to incidents across the state.

Officials urge citizens to stay off the roads except in cases of extreme emergency or necessity.

There’s also a possibility of power outages, if ice accumulates on power lines and trees.

Snowfall totals Monday were estimated to reach 6-9 inches. All area schools are closed.

Snow started falling the middle of the night in York and Chester counties, dumping about three inches of snow this morning. That's only about half of what the National Weather Service has predicted for.

"We've basically had reports of 2 to 4 inches across most of the upstate so far this morning," said Justin Lane, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "The forecast for York County is now 6 to 9 inches total, most of that will fall today."

Snow and sleet is still being called for tonight, with sleet and freezing rain after midnight.

Officials urge drivers to stay off the roads. Snow on the roads is being packed down mostly by vehicles, and not many plows have made passes on secondary roads.

All major roads, including Interstate 77, are partially snow and ice covered, the S.C. Department of Transportation says.

"We've seen somewhere between 3 to 4 inches of snow," Chester County Emergency Management Director Eddie Murphy said. "For the better part, everyone is staying off the roadways. Expect the essential vehicles."

No power outages have been reported. Snow doesn't really create a problem for the power, not like freezing rain and ice does, said York County Emergency Management Director Cotton Howell.

"We've had a few accidents, not many more than normal mornings. Not many have been injury accidents," Howell said.

The winter weather should taper off Tuesday as temperatures reach a high of near 34 degrees. Chance of precipitation drops to 30 percent.

Lows are expected in the 20s at night during the week.

This storm is caused by a low pressure system moving along the Gulf Coast, the National Weather Service said.

Moisture with this system, moving northeast into cold arctic air across the region, will bring the snow.

Officials caution that travel the snow and ice could bring dangerous road conditions.

If you're leaving home, don't forget a cell phone, warm coat and gloves. Put a flashlight, blanket, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.

Howell said his agency supports the DOT and maintenance crews in treating and removing snow from roads. They also coordinate with agencies that deliver critical services to make sure they have what they need.

Depending on conditions, Howell said they could possibly activate the multi-jurisdictional coordination center. He said it serves as a command center for all agencies in the county -- Red Cross, road maintenance, Highway Patrol, law enforcement -- to deal with storm-related issues.

In Chester County, power outages could cause the need to open shelters.

The Highway Patrol warns drivers to be wary of snow and ice on roads. Slow down, and keep a safe distance between vehicles, the patrol advises.

Bridges and overpasses might ice before roads do.

The Highway Patrol requests that motorists dial the emergency number *HP only for serious emergencies such as collisions or being stranded in a vehicle.

Call the S.C. Department of Transportation at 511 for traffic conditions, or check local media or dot.state.sc.us for conditions on major roads.

All four York County school districts made the decision to cancel school today. Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Clover and York school district officials made the call around 6 p.m. Sunday.

All Chester County schools also will be closed.

Make-up days for York and Clover schools have not been announced.

Westminster Catawba Christian School and York Preparatory Academy, as well as Winthrop University, York Technical College and USC-Lancaster will be closed today.

Stores still stocked

Since forecasters have been calling for a snowstorm early this week for days now, some area stores special-ordered extra food items, including milk, bread and eggs, the items stores often run out of before and during storms.

Bi-Lo on East Main Street is one of those stores that had additional orders of bread and milk.

"We still have pretty good bit of supplies," a store employee said Sunday afternoon. "We're really busy today. We were really busy yesterday, too, but we got extra milk in Saturday night. We're still stocked now."

If you lose power for a significant amount of time, keep your refrigerator door closed as much as you can, Bagley said. Food will stay cool for several days if the door is only opened briefly to grab essential items, then re-closed.