Rising afternoon temps causing some ice to melt

February 12, 2014 

  • Storm accumulation totals through 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, as reported to the National Weather Service by county emergency managers:

    .5 inch, ice, Clarendon County
    .5 inch, ice, Calhoun County
    .5 inch, ice, southern Richland County
    .5 inch, ice, southern Lexington County
    .5 inch, ice, Orangeburg County
    .7 inch, ice, Barnwell County
    .7 inch, ice, Aiken County
    1 inch, sleet, Sumter County
    1 inch, sleet, Orangeburg County
    1 inch, sleet, Bamberg County
    1 inch, sleet, McCormick County
    2 inches, sleet, Lee County
    2 inches, sleet, Aiken County
    4 inches, snow, northern Richland County
    4 inches, snow, Chesterfield County
    4 inches, snow and sleet, northern Lexington County
    6 inches, snow and sleet, Lancaster County
    6 inches, snow, northern Kershaw County
    6 inches, snow, Fairfield County
    6 inches, snow, Newberry County

1 p.m. updateTraffic moved easier along major Midlands roads Thursday afternoon as rising temperatures in the 30s caused some melting, but many neighborhood streets and secondary roads remained covered with snow and ice.

"There are still some problem areas where people need to mindful, where they can be stuck or spin out of control," said Lance Cpl. David Jones of the S.C. Highway Patrol.

"We are still asking people to be cautious," Jones said.

Across much of the state, road crews with the S.C. Department of Transportation continued to use snow plows and sand and salt and brine trucks to clear the roads.

Fallen trees continue to be a problem, said DOT spokesman Bob Kudelka.

Although driving on major routes was in many places better than Wednesday during the storm, the DOT continued to warn, "Travel is not recommended unless absolutely necessary."

Temperatures were expected to drop into the 20s Thursday, resulting in hazardous road conditions in the early morning.

By early Thursday afternoon, many schools and work places had not made a decision on when, or if, to open Friday.

The Ravenel Bridge in Charleston remained closed.

Noon State Agency Response Roundup Department of Transportation: 1,455 maintenance workers actively involved in road operations, deicing roads with a supply of 12,598 tons of salt and 713 pieces of equipment in use. Department of Public Safety (supported by SLED and DNR): 354 officers in the field on around-the-clock rotating shifts. Overnight, from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM, the Highway Patrol responded to 925 weather-related calls for service: 178 collisions reported; 366 trees in roadways; 61 abandoned vehicles; and 276 abandoned motorists. National Guard: 182 soldiers deployed, supporting highway operations with 14 wrecker crews and an additional 30 dump trucks hauling 600 tons of salt inland from Charleston. American Red Cross (supported by DSS): 37 general population shelters open, including 4 warming stations, with a total of 193 occupants at this time. There are 110 volunteers and employees from the American Red Cross manning these shelters. DHEC has 9 special medical need shelters with 23 occupants, being staffed by 25 DHEC employees.

11:45 a.m. update Thirty S.C. Army National Guard dump trucks were loading up salt in Charleston Thursday morning to replenish stores in Columbia. The trucks, from Lancaster and Chester, will haul 600 tons of salt to the Midlands. The S.C. Guard continues to have 25 mission teams deployed throughout the state to support the Department of Public Safety. Those include 14 wrecker teams that spent the evening assisting dozens of motorists and moving 18-wheelers that blocked highways. The Guard has 182 soldiers and airmen on active duty performing a variety of services from operating a warming station in Allendale County and checking on shut-ins in Graniteville.

10:30 a.m.update Many Midlands primary, secondary and neighborhood roads remained ice- and snow-covered, though some were more passable than others.

Fallen trees have become "a significant problem" in some areas, the S.C. Department of Transportation reported. However, across the Midlands, trees and branches were falling sporadically.

For the most part, Interstates were passable, although motorists needed to take care on ramps and bridges, officials said. "A lot of people are seeing the Interstates clear and starting to think all roads are clear -- that's not the case," said Lance Cpl. David Jones of the S.C. Highway Patrol.

Jones said that mid-morning Thursday he saw eight to 10 cars stranded along U.S. 1 in West Columbia because they had tried to turn off the main road into mall parking lots. But no one had removed the big pile of snow from the entrance to the businesses, and the vehicles became stuck, Jones said.

Jones said most motorists he's talked to "are out joy-riding, looking for some place to get a sandwich" but most places are closed. The DOT and the Highway Patrol continued to warn people to stay off the roads unless they had an urgent situation.

10:15 a.m. updateSeveral state parks are in the hardest hit areas from Aiken through Berkeley counties.

Based on early reports, the most damage is around Aiken and Barnwell state parks, where many trees are across roads, according to State Parks Director Phil Gaines. None of the parks reported structural damage.

There is a report of a fallen tree on a cabin at Santee State Park.

All state parks, except Hunting Island and Edisto Beach, are closed due to the storm.

6:45 a.m. updateAs dawn broke Thursday across a misty, frozen tundra-like Midlands, officials were still warning motorists not to venture out.

A light drizzle fell in some areas, and people who walked on the frozen snow found the crust could hold their weight. As the day goes on, and temperatures rise above freezing, it will likely turn to slush. Walking on the frozen snow, with its thin ice glaze, could be extremely slippery.

Some 7,550 people in Lexington County had power outages, while about 2,500 in Richland County were without electricity, SCE&G reported.

“The road might be passable for a short distance, but then you can hit an icy patch,” said S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. David Jones, out since the early morning hours.

Many primary roads are passable, but bridges and overpasses are likely slick with ice, he said.

“In a matter of minutes, about 5 a.m., we had three wrecks on I-26 near U.S. 1 in West Columbia when people hit an icy patch on a bridge,” Jones said.

“People are starting out slowly, getting a little overconfident, picking up speed and then they spin out of control,” he said.

“Don’t drive unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Fallen trees that could block roads and even hit cars pose another hazard, he said.

“About 6 a.m., a trooper had to remove a tree in the road in Lexington,” Jones said. “As the day goes on, that might get worse.”

Motorists will find conditions vary greatly from county to county.

A 4 a.m. release from the S.C. Department of Transportation said that most counties, with the exception of coastal areas, are reporting that roads and bridges are covered with snow and ice.

Some 1,265 DOT workers continue to prowl the state’s roadways, laying down road-clearing materials. So far, they have put down 11,623 tons of salt, 4,204 tons of sand and more than a million gallons of salt brine.

SC Highway Patrol live incident report

12:01 a.m. update from SCDOT: State officials continue to discourage road travel unless absolutely necessary. The State Department of Transportation’s report on road conditions early Thursday morning pointed out that temperatures in the Midlands were hovering around freezing. Road travel would remain treacherous. In Charleston, the Ravenel Bridge was again closed due to falling ice.

Original story

A motorist died Wednesday when her car slid on the ice-slick Interstate 95, but most people obeyed official warnings and stayed off South Carolina roads as the state was hit by one of the worst ice storms in memory.

The death happened around 8:25 a.m. Wednesday at I-95 mile marker 128 in Clarendon County, said Lance Cpl. David Jones of the S.C. Highway Patrol.

A woman driving a 2009 Nissan skidded on I-95 and slammed into a 2007 Ford pickup that was legally parked on the Interstate’s shoulder, Jones said. The truck belonged to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

“Please hunker down. Stay home. This is not the time to venture out,” Gov. Nikki Haley, echoing the warnings of police and emergency officials, advised state residents Wednesday.

Road conditions were expected to be treacherous again Thursday. Even though temperatures in some areas might rise above freezing during the day, black ice and a return to sub-32 degree weather was expected to continue making driving hazardous.

On Wednesday, a small army of law officers – including some 380 Highway Patrol officers, 100 Department of Natural Resources officers and two dozen SLED agents – were on patrol across the state. Thousands of local police and sheriffs’ officers were also on duty. More than 1,500 S.C. Department of Transportation workers were sanding, clearing and salting roads.

In Richland County, deputy Capt. Roxanne Meetz was injured when her patrol car was hit by a motorist who slid on an icy patch, Sheriff Leon Lott said Wednesday.

Meetz, who was saved by air bags and her seat belt, is at home recuperating, Lott said. The other driver was charged with driving too fast for conditions.

The S.C. Highway Patrol reported dozens of weather-caused collisions around the state. Many were single-vehicle collisions caused by drivers going too fast.

Across South Carolina, thousands of residents were staying home, giving the roads – normally traffic-filled and humming with vehicle noise – an eerily silent, apocalyptic air.

“There are usually thousands of cars in downtown Columbia at this time, but you only see a few here and there today,” S.C. Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. David Jones said shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Sgt. Derek Miller of the Columbia Police Department’s traffic division, reported only two minor collisions from 6 a.m. to about 3 p.m. But officers have been busy helping “people who have been spinning out and having difficulty. Officers have been trying to assist them. For the most part, traffic has been pretty light. We’ve been fortunate.”

In Lexington County, many side roads were impassable, Administrator Joe Mergo said. “Conditions are becoming ’pretty bad’ for travel and likely to worsen,” he said.

DNR Capt. Robert McCullough said late Wednesday that the DNR truck that was struck on I-95 earlier had its lights flashing.

“An officer was assisting a motorist,” he said. “Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt, but we hate that it happened.”

Although a few motorists were speeding in the snow, most vehicles were “using caution when traveling, keeping speeds under 20 mph,” Jones said.

“But even in four-wheel-drive vehicles, when you come to a stop or accelerate, cars are still sliding,” Jones said. “It’s pretty bad. In my nine years as trooper, this is pretty treacherous because there’s so much ice.”

The snow and ice deluge began around 5 a.m., when a heavy mixture of sleet and snow began to fall across Columbia and the central Midlands.

Any car that was parked outside soon had layers of hard-to-get-off ice on all its windows. Ice scrapers for car windows were a must, and windows could even ice up while the car was traveling. Savvy motorists planned their car journeys, if they had to make them, by routes that avoided hills, if they could.

But authorities said people were better off not driving at all.

Irmo Police Chief Brian Buck said, “As people drive, it’s like the ice on our roads gets polished.”

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