A record-breaking snow unexpectedly fell across parts of South Carolina on Saturday morning, a fun surprise for some but an ominous start to the colder season for the thousands who lost power.
Snowfall at Columbia Metropolitan Airport on Nov. 1 is the earliest on record, according to the National Weather Service. The previous mark was Nov. 9, 1913.
Trace amounts were recorded at the airport, according to the weather service’s Facebook page. But the western part of Lexington County – as well as Edgefield, Saluda and Aiken counties – saw far more. Greenville and Greenwood also saw the white stuff.
Widely scattered flecks flew in Columbia east through the Lowcountry, which for the most part saw simply a cold, windy, rainy day.
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Snow accumulated on grassy and elevated surfaces early in the day in areas of Lexington County, with some residents on social media reporting two to five inches. Less than an inch was expected in most areas, the weather service said.
“Awesome!” is what 10-year-old Bryant Nowicki, of Irmo, thought of the snow.
He and his mother, Shelley, and grandmother, Cindy Spiegle, who was visiting from Birmingham, Ala., drove from their home to downtown Lexington to do a little frolicking.
“It was like a mix (in Irmo), but we had nothing accumulated,” Shelley Nowicki said. “But we were like, ‘Let’s go see! Let’s go play!’ ”
“I said, ‘Well, what a way to start the season. ’”
Oddly, the Midlands saw snow this year before its first frost or freeze. The first freeze is forecast for Monday.
Up to two inches of snow were reported in the South Carolina mountains, with six or more inches reported in the higher elevations of western North Carolina.
Around 12,000 SCE&G customers were without power at one point Saturday morning because of high winds and snow, mostly in Lexington and Saluda counties. By 2:30 p.m., about 2,500 customers in Richland, Lexington and Saluda counties remained without power.
Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative had another 14,000 customers without power in the morning but had restored power to about half of them by 2 p.m., a representative said.
Power was out temporarily at the Lexington County dispatch center and the county's 911 system.
Without power in Gilbert, Cherie Corley, her 8-year-old son, Joshua, and her mother, Dee Dee Whitehead, drove to Lexington for lunch. They had spent all night preparing for the garage sale they planned to have Saturday but instead spent the morning playing in the unexpected snow.
“Can you believe that? November 1,” Whitehead said.
“We hardly get snow when it’s winter,” her daughter replied.
When they woke up around 7 a.m., about 2 inches had already fallen, they said. And when they left for Lexington around 10:30 a.m., the snow was still falling heavily with nearly 5 inches measuring on their back porch.
Corley predicted the early snowfall to be an omen, remembering an old saying from her great-grandmother:
“If it snows on the pumpkins, you're going to have a bad winter.”
A winter weather advisory was in effect for most of Saturday morning for a “mixture of rain and snow” for Columbia, Newberry, Lexington, Aiken and other surrounding areas.
Temperatures were in the upper 30s Saturday morning and expected to climb near 50 later Saturday. Gusty winds are forecast for Saturday afternoon as well.
It has been a week of weather extremes in the Columbia area, with temperatures reaching into the 80s earlier in the week and a freeze in the forecast overnight Sunday into Monday.