Snow and ice created plenty of chances for snowball fights and other fun at the University of South Carolina this week, but the winter storm also was welcome for another reason: Classes -- and tests -- were postponed.
As she ate lunch and waited for a friend at the Russell House student center Thursday, Carolina freshman Jill Pritts said this week's snow gave her a reprieve from what was expected to be a challenging week.
Pritts, an 18-year-old from Roanoke, Va., said she's "not a big fan of snow, but it's nice to have a day off from school. I had a test today. It has been moved back until Tuesday.''
Sumter's Justin DuRant said he especially appreciated it. DuRant, 18, is a double major in biology and music who is taking 20 hours this semester.
"I'm getting a chance to get ahead,'' he said, but noted that the snow will make things "frustrating later on'' because professors will try to cram the missed work into a shorter period of time this semester.
DuRant said wasn't impressed with this week's storm. "I like snow, but this isn't exactly snow,'' he said. "It's ice pellets.''
Amanda Hiers shivered in the snow as she poured anti-freeze into her 19-year-old Honda Del Sol about mid-day Thursday. Hiers, a chemical engineering major at South Carolina, hoped to get the car running smoothly so she could motor out of the snow and back to her family's home in Myrtle Beach. It wasn't much warmer on the coast, but Hiers said getting home for the weekend would be a nice break from the snow.
"I hate this,'' the 18-year-old said.'' We live in the South. This is not how it should be. I'm going home today -- if it's the last thing I do. ''
After watching several people push a car out of a slippery parking space Thursday in Five Points, Sawyer Opalich said it was interesting how South Carolina residents were coping with snow and ice.
Still, the USC student, a freshman from northern Ohio, said he understands why southerners have so much trouble when wintry conditions hit.
"Up north, we'll go six months with thick snow, cold weather and stuff like that,'' he said as he walked back to campus on Greene Street. "But last week here, it was like 50 to 60 degrees. So it's understandable why people take such extreme caution down here. You'll have nice weather one day, then all of a sudden you've got snow and ice. That's dangerous.''
For some youngsters whose parents attend USC, this week proved to be a wonderful time.
Yangfan Liu awoke early Thursday, ready to slide down a tiny hill near her family's apartment on the corner of Pickens and Whaley streets.
The 3-year-old couldn't wait to play in the snow for the second consecutive day and the second time this year. The little hill at Carolina Gardens Apartments was perfect for a youngster, her dad said. "It has snowed two times this year, so we are really lucky,'' said 37-year-old Shou Liu, a post doctoral student at the University of South Carolina. "She said this morning 'It's snowy and I'm excited. I want to go out and play with the other children and go sledding."
Lexington County sheriff's deputies have been checking on the elderly and disabled people since the storm began. Deputies have taken several to warming stations but none have needed medical treatment, said Maj. John Allard, the department spokesman.
Exact numbers of people who were taken to shelters were not available.
The welfare checks have been among the most common calls for service from deputies since the winter weather hit, Allard said.
Anyone who wants to request a welfare check for a relative or neighbor in Lexington County should call (803) 785-8230.
Columbia continues to operate its two warming stations for people who need a place to escape the winter conditions.
On Wednesday night, 22 people slept at Martin Luther King Park at 2300 Greene Street, and six people spent the night at Hyatt park at 950 Jackson Avenue, Leisha Utsey, the city's public information officer, said.
Both warming stations will be open overnight Thursday.
Exploring the neighborhood
After spending Wednesday huddled inside by their wood stove, Sylvia and Wade Ligon on Thursday ventured on foot from their Harrison Road home.
Wade Ligon carried a wooden hiking pole and held his wife's hand as they gingerly stepped through the icy sidewalk on Forest Drive.
"I think we both were subconsciously walking in the direction of the Pizza Joint for a snow beer," Sylvia Ligon said.
But the pizza restaurant was closed. Firehouse Subs was the only restaurant open among a cluster of eateries along Forest Drive near Beltline Boulevard.
The couple turned back toward Kroger to continue exploring the neighborhood. Overall, they had enjoyed the weather.
"We're just pleased, pleased, pleased to have power," Sylvia Ligon said.
Roads begin to clear; caution urged
While the main roads are clearing, the Columbia Police Department is asking people to be cautious about driving.
Police would prefer people to walk rather than drive. But if they must drive, they need to go slow, said Jennifer Timmons, a police department spokeswoman. People should drive below the speed limit when there is ice on the roads, she said.
"The more calls we get for motor vehicle problems it takes us away from emergencies," she said.
Only call 911 for accidents with injuries and other emergencies, Timmons said. A car stuck in ice is not an emergency, she said.
For non-emergencies, call 252-2911.
Most businesses remain closed Thursday
There was just a scattering of vehicles on the road in sections of northeast Richland late Thursday morning, but most business remained closed.
While many back roads was barely passable, the few cars on the more traveled sections of highway were moving along without much difficulty, while workers at some businesses were busy shoveling snow and ice from their parking lots.
The K-mart on Two Notch and Parklane roads was among those that opened their doors. And while the store had just a few customers around 11 a.m. store workers said there had been a small rush earlier in the day as customers picked up any remaining electrical supplies like space heaters, batteries and other weather-related items.
Felicity Young, who lives nearby, said she came out to pick up some last-minute items like dish washing detergent, explaining she had already stocked up on basics before this weeks storm came through.
Young said she didnt have much trouble navigating to the store, adding she had simply taking her time. She said she was grateful she and her family had come through everything safely so far.
I feel sorry for those who dont have power, she said.
The Columbia Police Department helped 88 stranded motorists on Wednesday, and officers have assisted 13 as of 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
The police department said driving conditions are dangerous and urged people to stay home.
Just a handful of businesses on Rosewood Drive in Columbia were open mid-morning Wednesday. Among them were the Publix and Rite Aid, where people were picking up last-minute provisions.
Mike Holden and Nick Luther loaded a couple of bags of groceries into the pickup they were driving and said they were going to go sledding once they got back home.
Andrew White, also driving a pickup, had a basket full of groceries. He just found out this morning he wasnt expected to report to work, he said.
Im from Maryland, and I kind of know it can be a lot worse than this, he said. This doesnt faze me too much.
But White said he has taken precautions, making sure his laptop and phones are charged and that his flashlights have fresh batteries.
Well roll with the punches, he said.
A man who said he goes by one name, Sebastian, stood outside a house on Woodrow Street in shorts and flip-flops, inspecting the ice on a car parked on the street.
He said he planned to stay home, and that his only worry was power outages. He has a fireplace and wood, however.
Push comes to shove, this baby will be gone, he said, gesturing to a small tree in his yard and smiling.
Minutes after standing behind Gov. Nikki Haley at a news conference just before noon urging people to stay off the roads, Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith was helping a stranded motorist in West Columbia.
Smith stopped his vehicle on Fish Hatchery Road to help a motorist who was stuck in the snow.
Definition of all hands on deck, tweeted Tim Pearson, Haleys political adviser.
People in Forest Hills and other neighborhoods along Forest Drive were bundling up and trekking through the slushy snow to take in the scene.
Were seeing what businesses are open just out of curiosity, said Beth Kelly, who lives on Keats Street, as she walked past a dark Lizards Thicket.
She was walking with Jamie Frost, who agreed he has the perfect last name for the weather. Both had been working from home and had decided to take a break.
Its a nice little snow day, Frost said.
The Kroger on Forest Drive was open. Getting to it was tricky.
The store is perched on a hill and some trucks and cars were sliding on it. One driver spun out five times before giving up and reversing down the hill to Forest Drive.
Inside the store, shelves were well-stocked. There even was milk and bread.
Taisha Peterson had walked to the store to buy milk, cereal, Gatorade and a frozen Healthy Choice dinner.
Peterson said she had doubted the weather reports. Perhaps it was wishful thinking on her part.
I dont like snow, she said. I dont like the cold. Its inconvenient.
A large black-and-white dog got a taste of the icy mix in Shandon.
The dog, Kappa, loved it the last time it snowed, said owner Brian Duggan, who is from Atlanta.
Duggan is a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, and he spent some of his day off Wednesday throwing snowballs for Kappa to catch and playing tug-of-war with a small stick.
Meanwhile, Becca OConnell, a USC student from Columbia, walked out of her Shandon house surprised at the kind of snow that was falling.
Its literally raining ice, she said. Ive just never seen that before.
She couldnt enjoy it too much, though, because she said she had two papers to write and planned on spending the day doing homework.
All was still in Arcadia Lakes on Wednesday afternoon except for the occasional brave soul who ventured out to do some quick sidewalk shoveling.
That was good news for 15-year-old Bobby Counts, who found ideal sledding conditions on hilly Arcadia Woods Drive two to three inches of crusty snow, a sloping hill and not a single car to mess it up.
Its awesome, Counts said.
The good thing about this hill is it is long and steep, and you can go all the way to the bottom without something happening to you.
Plenty to do
A big hill at USCs Roost athletics complex became a neighborhood ski slope for some college students and kids who live nearby in the Hollywood-Rose Hill community.
Folks slid down the hill on pans, garbage bags, laundry baskets and sleds, squealing with delight and piling up at the bottom of the slope, only to race to the top for another trip.
Kids who took to the icy hill said they sped down much faster Wednesday than during a lighter snow storm in January. The hill is just below USCs athletics administration office at the site of the old Sarge Frye baseball field off South Marion Street.
Meanwhile, another Hollywood-Rose Hill resident skied to Five Points, reporting back via community email on what was open in the citys restaurant and shopping village.
At midday Wednesday, Yesterdays, Delaneys and Harpers eateries were open, as was the Walgreens drug store, according to reports distributed to the neighborhood association.
All Midlands school districts are closed Thursday.
Still, Kershaw County Schools Superintendent Frank Morgan said Wednesday he is already fielding questions about Friday school closure, although that decision wont come until he and his operations manager survey roads Thursday.
I have parents Facebooking me every 20 minutes about Friday, which is OK, he laughed.
But he said these ongoing storms require a look at many factors, including the conditions on rural roads and parking lots as well as main thoroughfares.
The other thing we are watching is electricity, Morgan said. That is still a danger for us. If the schools lose electricity, then you have to start dealing with kitchens.
Morgan and the Midlands other superintendents are monitoring weather reports carefully.
What we have heard is this isnt going to stop until Thursday morning, Morgan said. Tomorrow, we will get a preliminary look and just get a handle on where we are.