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Winter storm socks in most of county

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By Reece Murphy

The sun returned to crystal clear skies over Lancaster County just in time for Valentine’s Day on Friday morning, Feb. 14, as residents began thawing out after four days of brutal winter weather.

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The region’s winter weather began Monday afternoon, Feb. 10, the result of a front moving down from the north Monday that met a moisture-filled front moving up from the Gulf Coast on Wednesday.

The resulting clash clobbered the county with what became the worst winter storm in nearly a decade. It surpassed forecasts and deposited 6 to 8 inches of snow over most of Lancaster County and 8 to 10 inches in the Panhandle. When the storm hit the Piedmont, it sat and spun for almost a day.

Though officially ice accumulation reached about a quarter of an inch throughout most of the county by Thursday, Feb. 13, according to National Weather Service records, county roads bore much more than that as a result of freezing precipitation.

Friday morning, an extremely tired Lancaster County Emergency Management Deputy Director Darren Player said he and other emergency management personnel worked rotating shifts over the past 72 hours.

He said Wednesday morning’s break in the snow storm lulled many county motorists into a false sense of security that led them to venture out and get caught when the storm hit with a vengeance later that morning, especially on secondary roads.

Player said as the storm progressed and turned to ice and sleet, emergency management crews’ focus changed to removing downed trees from roads and other emergencies.

“We’re pulling ambulances this morning,” Player said about 8:30 a.m. Friday, “One about 1 (a.m.) last night in Kershaw, another about 4:30 or 5 in Indian Land. And they’re working on another one now in Mill Hill, on Elliott Street.

“They’re having trouble because they get off on those secondary streets and can’t get up the hills,” he said.

Player said he was aware of only one storm-related fire, a Rich Hill incident in which a high-voltage power line fell across the roof of a house and caught the porch on fire.

The family who lived in the home escaped uninjured and firefighters were able to put out the fire before it spread to the rest of the house, Player said, though it took some creative firefighting to do it.

“The line stayed live. It didn’t trip the breaker, so they fought it with a little different technique,” Player said. “What they did is took the deck hose and shot it up in the air, turned it off and let it rain down on the fire.”

Power outages

Another major issue from the storm was power outages across the county starting Wednesday as a result of the sleet and frozen rain.

The weather ultimately resulted in more than 4,000 residents without power in Duke Energy’s coverage area.

Lynches River Electric Cooperative reported about 25 homes without electricity in the Kershaw area Thursday morning, all of which were restored by Friday.

Duke Energy regional manager Rick Jiran said Thursday the outages ranged throughout the county, with scattered outages from Indian Land near S.C. 75 to U.S. 521 south to Kershaw. Other outages occurred in and around Lancaster, Elgin and Buford.

In response, Jiran said, the company called in approximately 10,000 crew members from Florida and the Midwest to help restore electricity to customers throughout the Carolinas.

According to Duke Energy, by Thursday afternoon crews had restored power to most customers, with 1,381 remaining without power.

By Friday at 2 p.m., power had been restored to all but eight outages in Lancaster County. 

“This is a heck of a storm, but we have workers out and they will work around the clock until everybody’s back on, period,” Jiran said.

Schools

After the better part of a week out of school due to district cancellations, students will be returning to school Monday, Feb. 17, Lancaster County School District officials said – a date that is a make-up day for snow days late last month.

Lancaster County School District  Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore said with state law requiring students to go to school 180 days, the school year could run long.

The school year is currently scheduled to end May 29.

The next scheduled make-up day after March 17, which is also already booked to make up for the earlier snow days, is April 14-16, during what would have been the first three days of spring break.

“I know there’s talk of the Legislature giving local boards the power to excuse days missed, but until that law is passed, we need to be in school on designated make-up days,” Moore said. 

“If the legislation doesn’t pass and we don’t use the make-up days as we come to them, we could face extending the school year into June.

“We certainly hope we won’t have to miss any more days this year for any reason,” he said, “but that’s certainly not something we can count on,” Moore said,

Roads

Representatives with S.C. Department of Transportation District 4 office in Lancaster County didn’t return requests for comment on the local road conditions Friday.

A statewide SCDOT summary Friday at noon said the interstate routes were in good condition, with primary routes in relatively good condition as well, except for isolated patches of snow and ice.

Secondary roads, however, remained hazardous and largely covered in snow and ice Friday, with SCDOT officials calling for residents to stay off the roads if possible as crews continue plowing, applying salt and other deicing materials.

Forecast

National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Miller said a front moving through the area tonight should help thaw out county roads since temperatures aren’t expected to fall below freezing.

After that, he said, a warming trend likely to run through next week should take care of the rest.

“Temperatures are going to  be fair over the weekend with temperatures in the high 40s and 50s,” Miller said. “Next week, we’re going to keep our temperatures above freezing and are expecting temperatures to rise on up into the 70s.

“It should be nice,” he said.

Cancellations

Due to the winter weather and its aftermath, the Magic Needle and Piecemakers Quilt Guild canceled its eighth annual One Stop Shop Hop event scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 15, at the University of South Carolina Lancaster.

As of deadline Friday, no make up date had been scheduled.

In Indian Land, the Humane Society of Lancaster SC also canceled its  adoption event scheduled for Saturday at the Legacy Park Recreation Center. 

The event has been rescheduled for 2 p.m. March 1 at the Legacy Park Recreation Center, 1100 Arrow Lake Road.

 

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151