The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and schools closed, flights were grounded and thousands of people were without power Wednesday night and Thursday morning as the second ice storm in two weeks slammed the Charleston area.
What to expect today
Charleston: Drizzling rain is expected to continue until noon, but no ice. Morning temperatures should be well above freezing, after an overnight low of 35 degrees, but nobody is making any predictions how fast the ice on the overhead cables of the Ravenel Bridge will melt. Check postandcourier.com to see if the bridge is open yet. The sun will start coming out around noon, with a high near 47.
Summerville, Moncks Corner: Freezing rain remains in the forecast Thursday morning, and icy roads are possible. The day will become increasingly sunny in the afternoon, with a high near 42.
Source: National Weather Service
Light freezing rain and trace amounts of ice accumulation were expected overnight and early this morning but so far motorists have reported smooth, but wet, driving conditions on the major highways.
The Ravenel Bridge remains closed because of ice falling from the cables and towers, according to the state Department of Transportation. All other bridges remain open.
Limb-snapping ice has been the biggest problem so far with this storm, causing prolonged outages.
As of about 9 this morning, more than 20,000 SCE&G customers were without power in Dorchester County. Berkeley Electric reported more than 25,000 Berkeley residents without power and more than 2,000 in Charleston County.
Power lines fell across Interstate 26 between Ridgeville and Harleyville about 4 p.m. Wednesday, blocking lanes in both directions, according to the Highway Patrol.
The area along S.C. Highway 61 in Knightsville, Reevesville and a portion of St. George lost power and phone service, said Jason Ward, Dorchester County administrator.
Power was lost at some fire and EMS stations as well as the public works operations center. Those locations were relying on emergency generators, Ward said.
Berlin G. Myers Parkway in Summerville also was closed, and several traffic lights were out on U.S. Highway 78. Ice-weighted trees were falling across roads, Ward said.
Sheriff's Office cruisers were running with their blue lights on to encourage drivers to keep speeds below 30 mph, he said.
The Red Cross opened shelters at some local schools in Berkeley and Dorchester counties. They also assisted a family of five that was displaced when a tree fell on their home at 234 Miami St. in Ladson.
In Charleston, the Ravenel Bridge cables were coated with dangerous ice Wednesday. Officials worry that when temperatures climb as forecast Thursday, the ice will melt, fall and damage cars as it did after the storm two weeks ago.
"We can't say the bridge will be closed Thursday, but it doesn't look favorable," said Charleston Police Deputy Chief Tony Elder. "You could have some windshields broken or worse."
Schools and colleges are closed again on Thursday in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.
Statewide, the storm cut power to hundreds of thousands of electric customers. Gov. Nikki Haley asked President Barack Obama to declare the state a federal disaster area, according to The Associated Press.
More than half of SCE&G's nearly 55,000 customers in Dorchester County lost power Wednesday. As of 9 p.m., 25,444 were still in the dark. The utility reported 4,695 without power in Berkeley County and 5,140 in Charleston County as of 9 p.m. Crews were set to work through the night.
"As long as conditions continue this way, we will expect to see continued power outages," said SCE&G spokeswoman Kim Asbill.
As temperatures rise above freezing Thursday and ice begins to melt, trees and limbs weighted down by frozen precipitation could snap back into place, striking and breaking power lines, Asbill said.
For those who have lost power, extended outages should be expected, she said.
Statewide, SCE&G was working to restore power to tens of thousands of customers.
Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis said there were a lot of fallen limbs and trees across roads in the county.
"Clearing the roads, and electricity, that's the main thing. People are moving. The roads are not icy. The overpasses are still a little tricky," he said.
Davis said he lost power at his home early Wednesday afternoon but he has a gas generator.
Santee Cooper reported up to 4,700 outages in Berkeley County, which is well over half of the utility's customers there. Many were expected to have power restored by mid-afternoon Wednesday, said Mollie Gore, utility spokeswoman.
"As we restore one group, there is another outage," she said.
Power was out at Santee Cooper headquarters in Moncks Corner, which was operating on generator power, she said. The company's outage map showed most of the customers without electricity were in Moncks Corner.
Trees heavy with ice falling on power lines was the main cause of outages, she said.
Berkeley Electric Cooperative reported 35,000 households in the dark as of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Deteriorating weather conditions were making it hard for crews to restore power, the utility said.
Many arriving and departing flights at Charleston International Airport were canceled at about 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to the airport website.
Arriving flights from Charlotte and Atlanta were the most heavily affected. Flights from Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia also were canceled. There were 34 arrivals and 39 departures canceled or delayed at Charleston International, said Airport Director Paul Campbell.
The situation should improve Thursday morning if overnight lows stay in the mid-to-upper 30s, he said.
The State Ports Authority reported a slowdown in truck traffic to the terminal that picked up on Wednesday morning.
Ashley Truitt, a store manager at Edible Arrangements in North Charleston, said delivery trucks had to navigate around traffic due to bridge closures on Wednesday. It's also slowed sales, she said.
"It's affecting our sales volume because a lot of people like to see the product before they order it, and they can't get here to the store," Truitt said. "It's hurting our Mount Pleasant location for sure because of the bridge being closed."
The winter weather will not thwart this weekend's plans for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in downtown Charleston, officials said. The storm's large path across the East Coast has forced some hiccups with travel plans for some exhibitionists, but the annual event is set to kick off on Friday without a hitch, according to John Powell, SEWE's executive director.
He added that some attendees are facing flight delays and cancellations in airports in Atlanta and Charlotte, but they're expected to arrive later in the week.
"We're extending check-ins for them," he said.
Tyrone Richardson, Abigail Darlington and Dave Munday contributed to this report.