Post and Courier
September 21, 2014

Sleet, snow about gone, ice still a threat, schools closed Thursday

Posted: 01/29/2014 06:40 a.m.
Updated: 01/29/2014 03:01 p.m.


Staff reports

The storm is over, forecasters say. Now it's the cold, ice cold.

Because of concerns over icy roads, schools in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties will be closed again Thursday.

Most main roads in the metro Lowcountry are in drivable shape, except for elevated areas. Most bridges and overpasses are still a mess. The Don Holt Bridge on Interstate 526 over the Cooper River re-opened at 3 p.m. But bridges still closed Wednesday afternoon included the Maybank Bridge, the McKinley Washington Bridge and the Ravenel Bridge on U.S. 17 between Charleston and Mount Pleasant, according to a S.C. Department of Transportation update.

Road crews are at work, but a lot of road surfaces are wet. If today's high reaches 32 degrees, it will be for only a few minutes late in the afternoon, and tonight temperatures will drop off rapidly, forecasters say.

Anywhere a road rises or could be wet, could well be hazardous.

"There still is a pretty good chance that some of these (wet and slush) patches will freeze," said meteorologist Jonathan Lamb, National Weather Service, Charleston.

A winter storm warning for the Lowcountry has been lifted for hours. There's still a chance for sleet or snow along the coast tonight, Lamb said.

Ice that accumulated throughout the Lowcountry isn't expected to melt any time soon, due to the day's cloudy skies and below-freezing temperatures, Lamb said. Lows tonight will be in the lower 20s to the teens, and wind chills 5 to 10 degrees below that. Ice drooping from tree limbs remains a problem.

Drivers are asked to use caution, particularly under tree branches.

"We have encountered a few roadways with low-hanging branches covered in ice," Charleston County spokesman Shawn Smetana said. "This can pose a threat to the safety of drivers if they fall."

Downtown Charleston looks like an iced-over ghost town with very little traffic plying the normally bustling streets.

For pedestrians brave enough to tred the slippery sidewalks the city was their's, except that few businesses were open.

On Upper King Street, Pete Rivas, co-owner of Hom restaurant, braved the risky drive from his home on James Island across the icy connector in hopes of being one of the few eating places to open for lunch. He was certain business would be brisk with all of those downtown pedestrians looking for a warm place and a burger.

He was correct, customer after customer packed into the self-described "burger boutique," many saying "thank heaven you're open."

The farther out you go in Berkeley or Dorchester counties, and the farther off main roads, the worse conditions get.

"Rural roads are still very poor. The main ones aren't the best but they're drivable," said Dorchester County Sheriff Chief Deputy Sam Richardson. "What we're worried about tonight."

CARTA suspended all services Wednesday due to uncertain weather conditions and bridge closures.

Bus services have been closed since 9 a.m. Tuesday. Executive Director Christine Wilkinson said CARTA made the decision to suspend services based on the best available information and out of an abundance of caution.

Wilkinson said information about the suspension was widely circulated in advance and that she had not heard complaints about people being stranded.

"Even though the buses are large and heavy, they can still slide like any other vehicle, she said. "We had to go with the information we had at the time, and we tried to make our decision with safety in mind."

Tomorrow the freeze should break.

Thursday: Partly sunny skies are expected with highs in the mid 40s and lows near 15 degrees. Winds will reach up to 15 mph.

Power outages

SCE&G reported more than 5,000 power outages across the state this morning, 4,000 of which were in Charleston County.

Around 165 SCE&G customers were without power this morning in Dorchester County.

According to Berkeley Electric Cooperative, around 800 Berkeley County residents have reported outages.

The electric cooperative reported this morning that 4,000 members were affected over a widespread area. The outages are due to trees and heavy weight taking down a number of power lines, according to a news release.

Berkeley Electric Cooperative crews will continue to work until all power is restored, the news release said. To report an outage to the electric cooperative, call 1-888-253-4232 or visit its website.

SCE&G attributed its outages to icy conditions. Restoration times are still under evaluation, SCE&G reports.

SCE&G's business offices are on a two-hour delay this morning. Offices were expected to open at 10 a.m. Customers can report outages at 1-888-333-4465 and view updates on the outage map on SCE&G's website.