COLUMBIA, SC — South Carolina motorists, be careful Friday morning if you drive.
Although interstates and many primary roads may be largely clear, temperatures across the Midlands were to dip into the 20s overnight, and any wet surfaces likely will be frozen and slippery into the morning, officials said.
The temperature dropped to 29 degrees overnight at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, but it was up to 32 by 7:30 a.m. and is expected to hit 50 by noon, according to the National Weather Service.
While many neighborhood streets and secondary roads were expected to remain covered with snow and ice – a major reason why Midlands schools won’t open Friday – and are expected to be hazardous, especially in the morning; the ice should be gone in most areas by the end of the day.
"We are still asking people to delay going out at least until mid-morning when there should have been some melting,” Lance Cpl. Jones of the S.C. Highway Patrol said Thursday.
Fallen trees continue to be a sporadic problem, DOT spokesman Bob Kudelka said Friday.
Motorists driving on secondary roads may encounter downed trees and power lines, as well as slick surfaces, Jones warned. One of the storm’s four deaths came early Thursday, when a car hit a tree that had fallen across a road in Berkeley County.
People should pay attention to black ice and ice-slickened bridges and overpasses.
The ice and snow on roads Friday will first turn to slush and then, hopefully, melt off as the day goes on, Jones aid.
Across much of the state Thursday, hundreds of 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.
People who had to get out on the roads seemed appreciative.
The largest single contingent of workers was fielded by the DOT, which put some 2,100 workers in the field working 12-hour-plus shifts “to provide 24-hour support in hazardous conditions, concentrating their efforts on priority routes, including interstate highways, US highways, SC highways and bridges,” said Van Fuller, deputy secretary of engineering.
Thousands of law officers – including state troopers, SLED agents and S.C. Department of Natural Resources – as well as local police and sheriffs’ departments – were on patrol. More than 350 state troopers were on duty at any given time, operating on 12-hour shifts.
In Lexington County, the focus turned Thursday to clearing highways such as US 1, US 378, US 321 and SC 302 after officials deemed interstates to be in good enough shape to divert crews there.
Many Lexington County side roads remained slick, though, county administrator Joe Mergo said.
In Columbia, traffic commander Sgt. Derek Miller said that as city roads got clearer Thursday, more cars were appearing.
“We’re still helping people, but not as many as we did Wednesday,” Miller said.
Because of the freeze forecast for Thursday night, Miller advised motorists “to delay venturing out early in the morning. Let the temperatures rise up.”
In Kershaw County, Sheriff Jim Matthews said – in an observation that seemed to reflect conditions elsewhere – although roads in populated areas are fairly clear, “some of our back roads haven’t even been scraped. They’re in bad shape.”
In Charleston, the Ravenel Bridge, closed for two days, reopened Friday morning.
The official forecast for Friday morning underscored the likely hazardous going.
Overnight temperatures around Columbia were expected to drop below freezing around 8 p.m. Thursday, hit 26 degrees and remain that way until after sunrise Friday, said National Weather Service forecasters.
Temperatures will rise above freezing about 10 a.m., forecasters said.
By Friday afternoon, the sun will come out and temperatures will go to 50 or above. Friday night temperatures are expected to stay above freezing.
Reporter Tim Flach contributed to this story.