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A second round of ice and snow is heading for the Lowcountry.
The Charleston area could get a layer of ice along with freezing rain early Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters have issued a winter storm watch that includes Charleston County from late Tuesday night to Thursday morning.
The outlook is even worse for Berkeley and Dorchester counties. The area that includes Moncks Corner, Summerville and St. George is under an ice storm warning that could bring freezing rain Wednesday and Thursday.
"Significant accumulations of freezing rain could create dangerous or impossible driving conditions," according to the weather service. "Some damage to trees and power lines is possible as well as power outages across the area."
The icy weather could make it hard for residents of Berkeley and Dorchester counties to commute to work and school. Officials with both county school districts are closely watching the forecast to see if any schedules need to change Wednesday or Thursday.
It's not likely that the Ravenel Bridge will freeze this time, but some ice is possible on the overhead cables, according to Emily Timte, a meteorologist with the Charleston office of the weather service. Ice is more likely west of U.S. Highway 17, although it's possible on elevated bridges, she said.
The outlook is even worse for much of the rest of the state.
The Weather Service is warning of the possibility of paralyzing and possibly historic amounts of ice from freezing rain from Aiken to Columbia to Florence. Farther north along the Interstate 85 corridor, 4 to 6 inches of snow could fall.
"Our certainty that something is going to happen is pretty high," said Whitney Smith, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Columbia. "It's the details like the exact timing, the exact turnover from snow to freezing rain and the amounts that will fall that have uncertainty."
The service's best estimate is a quarter to three-quarters of an inch of ice on power lines and trees in many parts of the state. That much ice could be devastating. South Carolina hasn't seen a major ice storm in nearly a decade. In December 2005, similar amounts of ice fell across the Upstate, and Duke Energy at the time estimated that 60 percent of its South Carolina customers lost power.
The last serious ice storm in the Midlands and Pee Dee was January 2004, when three-quarters of an inch of ice left 250,000 customers without electricity,
Officials already are starting to prepare. The S.C. Senate decided to call off this week's session. The House was already planning to take the week off. Gov. Nikki Haley was talking with emergency officials Monday to determine what action might be necessary.
The Department of Transportation started to load salt and sand trucks for a second time in two weeks. On Jan. 28, much of South Carolina saw at least an inch of snow, while the coast saw freezing rain. Most amounts were less than a quarter inch, but it was enough to close the Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River for more than 40 hours.
The Associated Press and staff writer Dave Munday contributed to this story.
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