Snow – joy, misery!

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Winter storm dumps 6-10 inches

Reece Murphy
If there ever was a polar opposite of the snow that fell three weeks ago in Lancaster County, this week’s snow storm was it.
The former, much anticipated and brief, came the day after Christmas, settling postcard beautiful. The roads, for the most part, left unscathed and open.
Then there was this one, drab and gray, a snow event that started off lovely enough, but soon turned to sleet and freezing rain, leaving roads nearly impassible and slick as hockey rinks. The effects are still being felt.
Of course, how much folks enjoyed it came down to point of view.
“I like it,” 14-year-old Ben Chamberlin of Indian Land said. “I helped a neighbor build a snowman, went sledding and threw snowballs. I got to hang out and didn’t have any homework.”
Julie Wilkinson, who lives down the street from Chamberlain, said being from upstate New York, she usually enjoys a good snow. But now she wishes it would go away.
“Now it’s Day 2 and my office is closed,” Wilkinson said Tuesday. “I know by noon I’ll be ready to get back to work – and the parents who bring their kids to my center are probably going stir crazy too.
“We live on a hill, so there wasn’t much getting out,” she said. “I saw two or three cars try and they didn’t make it.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Linton said the storm was caused by the interaction of a moisture-laden system moving up from the Gulf of Mexico and a  strong high pressure system from the north bearing cold air.
By noon Monday, the amount of snow on the ground in Lancaster County, ranging from 6.5 inches to nearly 10 in some areas, was already double the 2 to 4 inches predicted only 24 hours earlier.
By Tuesday afternoon, conditions had gone from bad to worse with a quarter-inch of freezing rain that packed snow into a frozen mass and played havoc with power lines.
“Toward the end of the event, warm air aloft moved into the area and changed it from snow to freezing rain,” Linton said. “Back on Jan. 23, 2003, there was 4 to 7 inches in Lancaster, so you have to go back a few years (for comparable weather).”
In all, two results figured prominently: Power outages and poor driving conditions.
“We had about 250 homes without power in Lancaster County,” Duke Energy District Manager Rick Jiran said Tuesday morning. “Mostly due to ice on the trees and limbs coming down on the lines.”
Jiran said such a situation made restoring power tougher since employees had to not only locate the source of the problem, but often remove the limb that caused the problem before re-running and connecting a new power line.
“It’s been terrible,” Jiran said. “We had folks out there at 2 in the morning,

basically in the woods walking power lines to find out where the problems are.
“It’s a mess out there, very tough working conditions.”
Leigh Smith of Lynches River Electric Cooperative reported similar type outages east of Lancaster County affecting 319 homes Monday afternoon and 128 overnight Tuesday. Line workers restored power within two to three hours of each, she said.
“To put it in perspective, though, we have a little over 20,000 accounts, so that was a very small percentage of what it could have been,” Smith said. “It could have been far worse. Overall, we were lucky.”
Lancaster County Fire Marshal Stephen Blackwelder said Tuesday morning that main roads such as U.S. 521 were for the most part open. The problem, he said, was side roads.
“I can tell you they’re horrible,” Blackwelder said. “We’re chasing EMS around helping people who’ve fallen. It’s been pretty interesting getting ambulances in and out, and getting people into ambulances.”
Highway Patrol spokesperson Trooper Billy Elder said Tuesday morning even expert drivers like troopers were having problems with road conditions.
“I’d be doing OK, if I could get my vehicle unstuck,” Elder said.
He was unable to call back by deadline Tuesday.
Monday, though, Elder said road conditions had kept troopers busy, almost exclusively with single-vehicle accidents involving drivers sliding off the roadway.
While property damage was high, Elder said, the number of accidents with injuries was negligible.
“There was one accident of note on (U.S.) 521,” Elder said. “About 10 till eight (Monday morning) a DOT snowplow lost control in ice and snow near Andrew Jackson Park, entered the median and overturned. The driver wasn’t injured.
“We haven’t really seen a lot of injuries, and I think that’s because most people are staying home,” he said.
County Administrator Steve Willis said county crews helped the Department of Transportation with road clearing, but there was only so much that could be done.
“People have been calling wanting to know when we’re going to get these side roads and subdivisions clear,” Willis said. “Unfortunately, not any time soon.
“We’re still working with DOT, still working main roads,” he said. “Where there’s enough traffic to turn the ice to slush, you can clear it, but if it’s hard packed, there’s nothing you can do.”
In all, the SCDOT had more than 1,200 employees spreading 19,684 tons of salt, 5,186 tons of sand and 641,731 gallons of brine and calcium chlorine to keep the state’s roads clear.
Willis said Public Works was still trying to decide on which, if at all, convenience centers to open.
“It’s been nearly a week since people have been able to dump their trash,” he said. “But it’s looking doubtful we’re going to reopen all of them by Thursday. Trash is important, but it’s not worth getting anybody killed over it.”
Willis said residents could check on convenience site openings and closings by visiting the county’s Website www.Lancastercountysc.net, or by calling (803) 416-9495.
The weather forced city of Lancaster officials to suspend residential and commercial garbage collection services Monday and Tuesday.
Jerry Crockett, the city’s public works director, said crews will resume pick-up services today. They will be working each day during the daylight hours until the trash is caught up, he said.
“We’re trying to get a handle on what we already got out there,” Crockett said. “Bear with us. We will respond as quickly as we can.”
The bad weather resulted in at least one water line break in the city Monday night. Crockett said that incident, on Forest Drive, caused one home to lose water for about three or four hours.
As of late Tuesday morning, Crockett hadn’t heard of any other water and sewer-related incidents.
Similarly, David Knight of the Lancaster County School District said officials are taking it one day at a time in making decisions about school closings or delays.
He said the district would post the information on the school’s website, www.lancasterscschools.org and make ConnectEd calls to parents and students with the information as the decision is made.
“It just depends if it warms up and that kind of stuff,” Knight said.
“We’ve got to consider the safety of everybody who’s got to be on the road.”
As for the forecast, Linton said the rest of the week should see a warming trend, which is, again, relative with highs for most of the week in the mid 30s with overnight temperatures in the low 20s or lower.
All of which adds up to the admonition to be careful.
“With the cold nights and the melting snow, there’s going to be some wet roadways refreezing at night,” Linton said. “So there may be areas that look like their fine, but could be layered with black ice.”
Despite the weather, Sheriff Barry Faile said deputies are patrolling the county as normal.
Officers just have to make sure they use extra caution while responding to calls, he said.
“We’re doing the best we can. We just have to be safe with whatever we do,” Faile said. “We’re struggling like everyone else.”

Reporter Jesef Williams contributed to this story.