Polar vortex wraps county in layer of chill

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School district delays start of school by two hours again today

By Denyse Clark

Lancaster County Schools are again on a two-hour delay today and low-temperature weather is the reason, district officials said in a Tuesday, Jan. 7, press release. 


Teachers and staff members will report to work at normal times.

Lancaster County School District officials initially made a decision Monday to delay school at least two hours due to the low temperatures forecast for Tuesday morning.

Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore said the delay was “prudent” and a matter of putting student safety first. 

“Our top priority is always the safety of our students,” he said.

Good thing the decision was made because those concerns became reality.

“Tuesday, we had 15 buses that wouldn’t start because of frozen fuel lines or wouldn’t move because gear shifts were frozen, and some buses actually started and ran a few minutes then shut down because they'd frozen again,” Moore said. “That means up to 1,800 students could have been affected by late buses if we had started at our regular times.”

Single-digit temperatures in Lancaster on Tuesday registered at nine degrees and made the air feel more arctic due to the wind chill factor. Temperatures are not expected to rise above freezing until around midday today. 

The weather was also tough on 22-year-old runner Kamiya Kirkland who was at the Springdale Recreation Complex on Tuesday training for her induction into the U.S. Air Force later this year, she said.

Neil Dixon, meteorologist for NOAA National Weather Service in Greenville, said the single-digit temperatures experienced Tuesday haven’t been seen here for nearly two decades.

“We haven’t seen temperatures this low since February 1996,” he said. “Our history (record keeping) dates to the late 1800s and there have been only 31 days with colder minimal temperatures than those seen today.” 

Dixon said Tuesday’s low temperatures broke previous single-digit temperature records in our region.

“The record low at the Charlotte (Douglas International) Airport was broken this morning,” Dixon said Tuesday. “The previous record was 12 degrees set in 1884 and the temperature in Charlotte was six degrees this morning.”

Dixon said during this “low stretch” of frigid temperatures, it’s important to consider neighbors with poor heating by either providing an extra heater for them or giving them a ride to a warming center. 

In light of the frigid temperatures in the weather forecast, Lancaster County opened an emergency shelter for those without power or heat during these extreme conditions.

Lancaster County Emergency Management Director Morris Russell said anyone who loses power or heat should contact Public Safety Communication at (803) 283-4136 for directions to the shelter.

Dixon also urged extra protection for pets and livestock.

Monitor pets

It’s also imperative to keep pets safe today because the weather is still brutal.

Dr. Meredith Somerset, veterinarian at Faulkner Animal Hospital, provided tips to help keep pets dry, warm and safe. 

“The biggest thing depends on what the pet is acclimated to,” she said. “Animals with long coats or double coats like the German Shepherd do better in this weather and the Newfoundlands and Great Pyrenees are actually loving it.”

Somerset said extra care should be given to older animals and those with heart problems, arthritis and other sicknesses.

“If the animal has to stay outside, find a way to block winds, give them good bedding like hay straw or provide blankets,” she said. “Also, check their water bowls, make sure their water is unfrozen and give them plenty of food because they burn a lot of calories.” 

Dixon cautioned residents to continue to be vigilant today in the frigid but less cold weather.

“We've lifted our wind chill advisory but we're still in a stretch of 40 straight hours of below freezing temperatures,” he said.

Additional tips

The county’s emergency preparedness office also provided these cold weather safety tips:

• Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel (propane, fuel oil, or wood) on hand. 

• Allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing. 

• Monitor a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS). Be alert to changing weather conditions. 

• Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.  A space heater should be plugged into a wall outlet instead of an extension cord. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for proper clearance around any heat sources.

• Bring pets inside during winter weather. If possible, move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.


Contact reporter Denyse Clark at (803) 283-1152