Chill factor

Firewood seller Herlin Wright loads wood into the back of a pickup truck Wednesday off Mathis Ferry Road in Mount Pleasant. With bitterly cold weather in the forecast, Wright might see an uptick in business over the next few days.

Remember the shorts and T-shirt weather from two weeks ago?

Forget about it.

The Charleston area will begin seeing a blast of stinging arctic weather as soon as tonight.

The National Weather Service predicts local temperatures may not make it out of the 30s during the day Friday, cementing the biggest mercury plunge of winter so far. AccuWeather forecasts a low of 22 overnight but 43 for Friday afternoon.

"The real cold stuff will persist through Saturday," said Bob Bright, meteorologist at the Weather Service's Charleston office.

How cold?

"North of Canada" cold, Bright said.

Saturday morning temperatures will be in the teens and possibly dip as low as the 10-degree mark 40 miles inland.

The Charleston International Airport's record-low temperature for Jan. 17 is 17 degrees — set in 1972 — and the region could be flirting with tying that mark or even breaking it.

Snow flurries aren't expected, but get out your calculators and start preparing for a wind-chill factor that could make it feel like Minnesota in the Lowcountry.

In advance of the drop, public safety agencies are issuing the same traditional warnings Southerners need to hear during any bitter cold snap: pets and livestock should be moved indoors, internal heating and fire hazards should be inspected, and pipe-freezes avoided.

South Carolinians, in particular, could experience a bigger pipe-freeze problem than those in the North because of houses with slab foundations and water pipes running through the attic, insurance agencies warn. A temperature drop to 20 degrees or lower could lead to a pipe freeze. Countermeasures include allowing indoor and outdoor faucets to drip overnight and keeping the house warm inside.

In terms of fire safety, local officials have already seen some areas of concern arise, including in North Charleston, where fire crews responded to a chimney fire this week.

North Charleston Fire Department Battalion Chief Eric Phillips said chimney fires are possible when residue accumulates in the brick space. He advises cleaning them once a year. For space heaters, there should be at least 3 feet of space around them to safely operate, he said.

Other special considerations include taking the time to check on the elderly.

Bottom line: Charleston's unofficial four weeks of winter begins now.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551, or