A word to the wise from guests at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church warming shelter: If you're going to walk along Remount Road, make sure you're facing traffic.
Trucks and cars could be seen fishtailing across sheets of ice Thursday morning, before North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey declared a state of emergency at noon and urged against any unnecessary travel. Pedestrians kept their heads on a pivot as vehicles careened around corners and swerved onto sidewalks.
The shelter was one of a handful of safe havens from the elements — and the traffic — as North Charlestonians ventured out under clear skies following a lengthy afternoon snowstorm Wednesday.
Inside the church, the Rev. Erik Grayson darted around solving problems as church member Judith Pfaehler prepared lunch for more than 30 people.
"We've got 99 problems," Grayson said.
In an ordinary winter, when the temperature dips below 35 degrees, Aldersgate only serves as a nighttime shelter. But as the snow rolled in on Wednesday, followed by more subfreezing temperatures, the church decided to keep the shelter running all day, for as many days as necessary.
That means they're short on volunteers to check in guests, serve meals, and supervise overnight. Another problem: The pipes keep freezing. And another: The propane water heater for the showers broke Thursday and needs replacing.
"It'll come. God provides," Grayson said.
Pfaehler said help kept coming, too. North Charleston police officers were giving rides to the church and even trying their hand at plumbing repair Thursday. And neighbors kept bringing pots of soup to share.
Teamwork abounded as neighbors opened their doors to those in need. The American Red Cross and the City of North Charleston opened a warming shelter at the North Charleston Coliseum. Farther inland, the Summerville Community Resource Center worked with Dorchester County Emergency Management and the Interfaith Disaster Council of Goose Creek to provide heated shelter and food.
Schools remained closed across the tri-county area, and many employers were telling workers to stay home. Families — particularly ones with children or snow-loving dogs — could be seen patrolling the streets of North Charleston's Park Circle neighborhood toting makeshift sleds.
A handful of local businesses opened their doors Thursday morning: The Olde Village Market & Deli, Orange Spot Coffee, and (why not?) Accent on Wine. Inside the Orange Spot, a steady stream of customers ordered hot drinks and commiserated about the rare cold snap.
Laura Cannon, co-owner of the coffee shop, could be seen bounding into the business early in the morning, her head bouncing up and down in the windows. A native of North Dakota, she said she hadn't seen snow like this since moving here in 2000.
"She frolicked in here," said co-owner Julie Buelk.
Cannon said she was relieved to hear that her neighbors were safe from the storm, and glad to open her doors for an impromptu neighborhood gathering place.
"People need meeting houses," Cannon said. "It's where we come to share our stories."