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State, county and local officials went into preparation mode early this week as the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning in advance of wintry weather expected to impact South Carolina from the coast to the Upper Piedmont.
The weather warning, in effect from 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, to 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, included a 70 percent chance of snow, sleet and freezing rain for the local area, forecasters said.
Tenia Morrison, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia, said snow accumulation was expected to be low for Lancaster County.
“We’re looking for 1 to 3 inches of snow in the Lancaster area,” she said Tuesday. “This should taper off before sunrise on Wednesday and end around 7 to 8 a.m.”
Tuesday, Gov. Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency as the winter storm was expected to blanket some areas of the state with up to 6 inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
The state of emergency put the National Guard on active duty to support state agencies. The guard has wrecker teams and four-wheel drive vehicles that can be used in the storm response.
The order also activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center.
It also puts into effect the state’s laws that prevent price gouging during, and after, weather events and allows the governor to take whatever other steps are needed to protect the state’s residents.
Larry Sprinkle, WCNC-TV weather forecaster, said the snow was expected to arrive in this area about 3 p.m. Tuesday, with the heaviest snowfall occuring between 4 to 8 p.m.
The heaviest winter weather was expected along a line that stretches from Columbia to Fayetteville, N.C., and then up into northeastern North Carolina.
“The way this system is tracking, it’s going to be a real mess along the coast,” Sprinkle said.
“The farther south you go, the worse it’s going to get.”
Today’s temperatures are expected to be in the low 30s, Morrison said. The overnight temperatures will plunge into the teens.
The Lancaster County School District dismissed students early Tuesday due to the storm warning.
District spokesman David Knight announced all afterschool activities were canceled due to the inclement weather.
The early dismissal decision was made as a precaution to overall student, staff and faculty safety.
School Distirct Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore said on a normal school day, some bus drivers finish thier routes about 5:30 p.m. or later.
Students will be notified via the district’s Blackboard Connection automated phone system about closings today the rest of the week.
Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said Tuesday morning that county, city of Lancaster and University of South Carolina Lancaster officials were to have a conference call to discuss weather-related closings and issues Tuesday afternoon.
“The plan right now is to close county administrative operations about 2 (p.m.) today,” Willis said, “and have them closed Wednesday with a delayed opening on Thursday at 10 (a.m.), depending on conditions, and possibly Friday.
“We will decide Wednesday for Thursday and Thursday for Friday,” he said. “We’re kind of playing it by ear.”
Getting roads ready
S.C. Department of Transportation vehicles were out as early as Monday evening, pre-treating major highways.
SCDOT crews, with 1,583 maintenance employees available, were scheduled to work around the clock on 12-hour rotating shifts until the roads are clear.
SCDOT said it expected to use 77 tons of salt, 98 tons of sand and 154,150 gallons of salt brine to keep the roadways safe.
Rick Jiran, director of government and community relations for Duke Energy S.C., urged customers to be patient if local power outages occur during this winter storm.
“We expect minimal impact in regard to outages,” he said. “However, we are prepared in the event of outages.
“Our teams are ready for any impact this storm has in this area,” he said.
Duke Energy warns its customers not to attempt to heat homes with a gas grill or by bringing a generator inside. Only operate this equipment outdoors in well-ventilated areas.
To report outages, call Duke Energy at 1-800-POWERON (1-800-769-3766).
Editor’s note: Due to inclement winter weather in the forecast late Tuesday, The Lancaster News had an early deadline for this edition. Also, reporter Reece Murphy contributed to this story.