Almost spring yet? Only in your dreams

The National Weather Service’s Doug Berry prepares Thursday to launch a helium balloon with instruments that will transmit data about temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind direction and wind speed.

At 6 a.m. Friday morning, a meteorologist was scheduled to step into a wind chill of about 10 degrees at Charleston International Airport to release a forecasting weather balloon. Needn’t bother: The day is sure to be cold.

The high temperature Friday, in fact, is likely to break a daily record for lowest high. Thursday’s 36 did, by 7 degrees. A wind chill advisory is in effect through 10 a.m.

As of Thursday afternoon, Berkeley County Schools announced plans to operate Friday on a two-hour delay.

National Weather Service, Charleston, meteorologist Emily Timte, who released the balloon Thursday morning, said the cold wasn’t too terrible. But she hurried back in.

The sun is now rising before the workday starts. Daffodils are popping up on the neighborhood lawns — or were before Thursday. So it’s almost spring, right? How much longer can this cold spell last?

“We’ll have some breaks, (but) almost the entire eastern half of the United States is looking at below normal temperatures and above normal rainfall the end of February through early March,” said State Climatologist Hope Mizzell.

The good news is that one of those warming breaks is forecast for this weekend, according to meteoroligist Doug Berry. He said the high Saturday is expected to be 59 degrees and by Sunday, temperatures will be in the 70s.

But the cold, forecast models suggest, will be back. Berry said temperatures Monday and Tuesday will be in the 50s, but things will be chilly again Wednesday with high temperatures in the 40s. The overnight low Wednesday could reach freezing.

John Blitch, the owner of Blitch Plumbing in Charleston, received a few calls but said temperatures have to stay in the teens several days to cause major problems. He also said there are fewer problems in newer homes that now use cross-linked polyethylene, which can expand and contract slightly.

“When it thaws out, the chances of it busting are less than with copper, PVC or plastic pipe,” he said.

Blustery cold kept tourists off the streets. The drivers of horse-drawn carriages bundled up waiting for fares and the open-air City Market, which this time of year would be awash with tourists, was largely empty of both vendors and visitors.

The coldest point measured in South Carolina on Thursday was Sassafras Mountain, where the thermometer fell to -1 degrees, Mizzell said. The coldest point in the Carolinas couldn’t have been much worse than Grandfather Mountain, N.C., where it fell to -19 degrees after the peak was smacked with 80 mph gusts.

The place most likely to have the highest above normal temperatures over the next few weeks is Alaska, where it’s been so warm they had to move the annual Iditarod dog sled race from its classic route because conditions just weren’t safe.

The best thing that can be said about the weather here is that Friday marks the last of the winter days most likely to see snow each year, according to Mizzell. There, feel better? Maybe we shouldn’t mention the Storm of the Century, which blasted Charleston with hurricane-force winds and snow in 1993 — midway through March.

Staff reporter Melissa Boughton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.