Schools, governments and businesses shut down Tuesday as snow flakes sprinkled across the Midlands -- but forecasters say the real danger will be tonight and Wednesday morning as falling temperatures could turn wet roadways into ice.
A second pulse of moisture with this low pressure system could bring a few quick flurries to the Midlands and Upstate this afternoon, according to the state climate office.
In South Carolina, the state Department of Transportation said crews had worked throughout the night and into the day Tuesday to keep major highways clear from ice and snow. Workers had distributed thousands of tons of salt, sand and brine and were using several hundred snow plows, sprayers and graders.
Most roads in central South Carolina were wet but clear, while some bridges in northern counties were being treated for icy patches, particularly on Interstate 26, officials said.
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Slick spots are being reported on S.C. 277, Parklane Road Monticello Road, I-26 at exit 97, Westmore Drive and River Drive. Columbia crews are working to put down sand in those spots, City Manager Charles Austin said.
“Those areas appear to be a little troublesome,” he said.
All Richland, Lexington, Kershaw, Fairfield and Newberry closed Tuesday. Kershaw is operating on a three-hour delay Wednesday for students and two hours for teachers and staff.
The real dangerous driving will be tonight and Wednesday morning, according to the climate office. Temperatures will drop throughout the day. Any moisture remaining on roads will freeze late this afternoon, causing black ice on some roads and, especially, bridges. The level of danger depends a lot on how much drying occurs on the roads today.
"The biggest thing is driver safety," said Joe Farmer, spokesman for the S.C. Emergency Management Division. "People in South Carolina don’t have a lot of experience driving in inclement winter weather, and so we urge people just to be very careful. If you have to go out there, then just exercise great caution and don’t tailgate people. Leave a little bit extra distance for stopping."
Airport officials reported no problems or delays.
"We haven't had any yet, and the worst is over," said Mike Flack, director of the Columbia Metropolitian Airport. "It's real close to a non event for us. Nothing is sticking to the pavement."
The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority reported that all buses and bus routes are operating normally.
The town of Pageland recorded 6 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The heaviest show fell in a line from Lancaster to Dillon.
Even though a light snow fell most of the day in Columbia, the official total for the city was only a trace. Many areas around Columbia recorded about half an inch. Sumter recorded an inch of snow.
The weather dove in from Canada to the Carolinas to mix with a surprising system that was building and moving up the coast.
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency. Authorities responded to more than 1,000 calls for help.
Perdue called the North Carolina emergency order a precaution so the state could better use its resources to respond to the storm. She said she hoped the snowfall was enough for kids to have fun, but urge drivers to stay off the road.
"It's always good to be safe than sorry," she said.
The National Weather Service pegged Raleigh as a possible epicenter of the storm, saying snowfall could reach up to 8 inches there by the time final measurements are tallied. A band of heavier snow that sat over the region contributed to the extra accumulation that exceeded initial forecasts.
Jonathan Blaes, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Raleigh, noted that snowfall totals varied greatly. Pittsboro, he noted, showed 7 inches while Chapel Hill, just 15 miles up the road, reported 2 inches.
"Things are winding down here in the central part of the state and starting to shift toward the coastal plain," Blaes said early in the afternoon. He expected parts of the northeastern coastal plain to see about half a foot of snow.