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Will Christmas be white?

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Or will it just be wet and cold?

Reece Murphy
rmurphy@thelancasternews.com
There’s an old saying that says “never bet on the weather.”
If you’re hoping for a white Christmas this year, it may be prudent to take the adage to heart.
Competing computer-generated forecasts are causing uncertainty as to how much snow will fall on Christmas.
“As far as right now, what we’re looking at shows there will be snow in the area, but the amount of accumulation is still up in the air,” National Weather Service meteorologist Hunter Coleman said Thursday morning. “There’s still one model showing temperatures staying warm on the surface and that would mean no accumulation.”
Larry Sprinkle, meteorologist at WCNC in Charlotte, agreed generally, but said trends are now showing there most likely will be snow in this area on Christmas. The question, Sprinkle said, is not so much how much, but when.

“We may well have a white Christmas, but if you’re hoping to wake up and see reindeer hoof prints in the snow, that may not be the case,” Sprinkle said. “It’s probably going to fall, but it may be later in the day, maybe toward the evening.”
Sprinkle said although Charlotte and Lancaster are only about 30 miles apart, that can make “a world of difference” when it comes to the weather. In other words, Lancaster County could get more snow or less snow than Charlotte, or none at all.
Sprinkle said models late Thursday morning were showing the range of possible accumulation from 1 to 5 inches in Charlotte.
With that uncertainty, no wonder local authorities were preparing Thursday for whatever comes.
Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said his office held a telephone conference with county emergency services and public works on Wednesday to set up contingency plans.
“Department heads are determining which staff members will be in town over the holiday and public works equipment is being pre-positioned in case we are needed to assist the S.C. DOT (Department of Transportation) with snow removal from the main highways,” Willis said. “All emergency services are making plans to operate through the inclement weather.”
Willis said the county has four road-graders to clear roads and a couple of backhoes to clear smaller areas, such as driveways at emergency services buildings.
Sprinkle said icy roadways may play havoc with motorists since temperatures are expected to drop into the 20s over nights during the weekend.
“That’s the issue,” Sprinkle said. “Any moisture out there freezes over and black ice, any amount of ice, causes problems.”
Perhaps the best predictor of Christmas snowfall is historical precedence. In that case, history is on the side of only light snow.
While the National Weather Service had no records immediately avail- able for Lancaster County, records for Charlotte show the last time snow fell on Christmas was in 1998, and then only as flurries.
Before that, similar “slightly white” Christmases occurred in 1993, 1975, 1969, 1962, 1953, 1909 and 1899.
The last consequential white Christmas, records show, came in 1947 when the area received an average of 5.8 inches of snow.
The time before that? Try Christmas Day 1880, with 4 inches.
Still, that’s not stopping locals from hoping for a Bing Crosby-style “White Christmas.”
“I think it’ll be good,” Aaron Gaither of Heath Springs said Wednesday afternoon. “We don’t get a lot of snow, so I think people will be excited even though the driving conditions may be bad.”
“We’re excited,” Leigh Deese of Lancaster said. “It would be a wonderful Christmas gift. I was raised with nothing but white Christmases in Virginia, so it’ll be traditional and sentimental.”
Local historian Louise Pettus said she wouldn’t mind a white Christmas, as long as it’s light and goes away the next day.
She said the idea of a white Christmas appeals to many people because of what they associate with a snowy holiday.
“I think it’s because of our childhood image of Christmas with Santa Claus, the reindeer in the sky and snow on the ground,” Pettus said. “You grow up with that memory and you’re not going to get rid of it just because you’ve grown up.”

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151