Excitement was in the air and snow was on the ground today as Lowcountry residents welcomed a winter storm that was projected to leave anywhere from 1 to 5 inches of the white stuff in its wake.
“It’s kind of exciting,” said Betty Pressley of Bonneau. She had about three inches of snow on the ground by 8:15 p.m. “I lived in New York for about 20 years,” she said. “I moved back here 14 years ago. I didn’t think it was going to happen, really. I am very excited.”
Pressley, 61, said her grandchildren were delighted. When the snow first started sticking to the ground, they were outside throwing snowballs, she said.
Traci Perry of Moncks Corner said she left West Virginia four years ago to get away from cold weather. Still, she was impressed by the snow in her yard on Friday.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “For the past four winters, I’ve not seen any snow. I’d rather it snow on Christmas, but this is great. Everyone is going to enjoy it.”
Perry, 40, said her four children were delighted.
Snow is an infrequent sight in Charleston. About 1 to 2 inches fell in January 2000, but the last snowstorm with appreciable accumulation was in December 1989, when 6 inches fell and stayed on the ground for several days. Water pipes froze and burst. Many residents had to flush their toilets with buckets of snow.
The snow that began falling this evening was expected to begin melting soon after sunrise Saturday, when temperatures were expected to go up into the 40s.
Reports of snow flurries began filtering in at 2:30 p.m., with snowfall reported in Holly Hill, Cross, Bonneau and Moncks Corner. At 5:45 p.m., a Summerville Police officer told his dispatcher that snow had begun falling in Summerville.
By 6 p.m. Friday, children in Summerville and Moncks Corner were outside frolicking in the falling snow, many for the first time in their lives.
There were reports of an inch of snow on the roofs of cars in Goose Creek. There also were reports of heavy snow falling in Ridgeville, with snow sticking to rooftops and the ground.
At 8 p.m., snow flakes began falling in peninsular Charleston.
Officials throughout the region had urged residents to avoid driving if they could.
“If you don’t have to drive tonight, stay home,” S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Bob Beres said Friday. “Rent a movie and enjoy yourself. Let DOT clear the roads.”
The state Department of Transportation was keeping an eye on bridges and overpasses as temperatures dropped. Earlier in the day, crews treated all the bridges and overpasses with salt, said James Law, a spokesman for the DOT in Charleston.
“We haven’t had any major problems,” Law said at 8 p.m. “Everything is pretty much like we expected it to be.”
Area police agencies began reporting icy patches on roadways as the evening progressed.
As the storm progressed, power outages became common as the weight of the heavy, wet snow snapped transmission lines and caused trees to come down. At 11:30, more than 15,000 SCE&G customers were without power in Charleston and Mount Pleasant. And another 12,000 or so SCE&G customers had no power in the Summerville and Walterboro areas.
Charleston Fire public information officer Mark Ruppel offered the following safety tips for those without power:
1) Never leave candles unattended and make sure you extinguish them before going to sleep.
2) If using a secondary heat source, do not place it near drapes or bedding or furniture. Make sure children and pets stay clear.
3) Make sure you have a screen on your fireplace and do not leave the fireplace unattended. Make sure it is totally extinguished prior to going to bed.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley convened a meeting of department heads Friday to assess the city’s readiness for the storm.
At the 2 p.m. meeting, city officials were expecting 3 to 5 inches of snow on the ground by this morning. “Most of the snow is going to be along the coast,” said Tom O’Brien, director of emergency preparedness. He held the latest projections from the Weather Service in his hand.
Though many area schools and offices were closing early Friday, city offices remained open until normal closing times. Workers with children affected by early school dismissals were instructed to speak with their managers.
Fire Chief Tom Carr said an extra engine company had been put into service on Daniel Island in case bridges were closed. Public works officials said all their vehicles had full tanks of gas. Police, fire and emergency preparedness officials planned to activate the city’s Emergency Operations Center at 10 p.m., police Maj. Tony Elder said.
“The city is ready,” Riley said after the meeting. “Tomorrow is Saturday and everyone should wake up to a pretty sight,” he said.
The Southeastern Wildlife Exhibition should not be affected by the weather, Riley said. SEWE visitors are typically outdoors enthusiasts who come to Charleston fully prepared for February weather, he said. Restaurateurs and other vendors generally are happy when the weather drives tourists inside, the mayor said.
As the storm approached, residents began stocking up on necessities.
Business was brisk for a Friday at the Harris Teeter store on East Bay Street, store manager Mark Lang said. But people weren’t panicking.
“There’s not a hoarding of certain items,” he said, adding people seemed “concerned with some excitement. They’re buying wine, too, and shopping for Valentine’s Day. I don’t think they’re expecting a terrible situation.”
At 1:30 p.m., there were five cashiers at the Piggly Wiggly on Harborview Road, James Island. People were buying milk, eggs, bread and other staples. One woman had a Valentine’s Day balloon.
“Everybody is here earlier,” said Richard Soubeyroux, an assistant manager. The store is usually busy on Fridays, but the rush usually doesn’t start until after 4 p.m., he said.
At 5:30 p.m., a manager at Harris Teeter on Houston Northcutt Boulevard in Mount Pleasant, said the store was extremely busy.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard of Charleston issued a news release today suggesting that people should look after senior citizens and the homeless and inquire as to their well-being Saturday. He also reminded people to check the batteries in their smoke detectors and to keep space heaters away from draperies, bed linens, clothing, or any combustible materials.
All flights were running on time at the Charleston International Airport, according to Becky Beaman, public relations director. Beaman urged travelers to call their individual airlines to find out the status of their flights. Some flights have been canceled, depending on the destination.
To get motorists on their way home sooner, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra is presenting a condensed version of Fiedler's Favorites at 8 p.m. at Memminger Auditorium. The show will be run without intermission and will be complete by 9:15 p.m., said Kathleen Wilson, the symphony's executive director.
Cancellations and early closings include:
•The College of Charleston has suspended classes on the north campus and main campus starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Saturday, the professor of the 8 a.m. class at the north campus will contact students about the status of that class. The 9 a.m. USC class at the north campus has been delayed until 10 a.m. All other activities at both campuses will be held according to schedule.
•Charleston County Central Bond court closed at 3 p.m. today and reopens at 10 a.m. Saturday.
•Charleston County offices closed at 3 p.m. today.
•All 16 Charleston County library locations closed at 3 p.m. today and will reopen at noon on Saturday. All programs and events scheduled between those times are canceled.
•Charleston Water System offices closed and all nonessential personnel were sent home at 3:30 p.m. Customers may access their account information online or by calling the Customer Service line at 727-6800.
• Tonight's performance of Guys and Dolls at Wando High School has been rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. Ticket holders can exchange their tickets for Saturday or Sunday's performance – based on space availability. Tonight's tickets will honored for Monday's performance. For more information, contact the Wando Box Office at (843) 375-3537 or go to wandohigh.com/musical.
• The ACT test scheduled for Saturday at North Charleston High has been canceled due to inclement weather. The test will be rescheduled for a later date.
•At The Citadel, the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scheduled Saturday at The Citadel has been cancelled. Those who need to reschedule should call 843-953-6799 on Monday. Also, Saturday’s Engineer’s Week activities, including the craft stick bridge and Lego robotics competitions, have been cancelled. The events will be rescheduled for a later date. For updates go to http://eweek.citadel.edu.
• Saturday's Class AAAA state wrestling championship featuring Fort Dorchester vs. Rock Hill has been postponed. The match was scheduled for Saturday at Ridge View High School in Columbia, but has been moved to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lexington High School.
• The statewide charter School Teacher Recruitment Fair scheduled for Saturday has been postponed until March 13. It will be from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. at the Carolina School for Inquiry in Columbia. The state's charter schools have more than 100 new openings for next school year. For more information, go to sccharterschools.org/page/jobs.
• Charleston Southern University closed at 3 p.m. Friday.
• Trident Technical College closed at 2 p.m. and Saturday classes have been canceled.
• The CSO Spiritual Ensemble canceled its Spiritual Masterworks concert at 7 p.m. at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 3871 Betsy Kerrison Parkway, Johns Island. The concert, which required free admissions tickets, has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. on March 5. The same tickets may be used for the new date. For more information, go to csospiritual.com.
• This weekend's Symphonic Band Camp at Summerville High School has been postponed until next week, Feb 19-21.
• Also, tonight’s Aaron Tippin concert at The Citadel’s McAlister Field House has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. March 12 at the same location.
On a lighter note, the Charleston Crab House says it will serve free "snow" crab--while it's snowing.
Check back with postandcourier.com as more details become available.