Snow storm couldn't have been better

USC senior Owen McKagen of Lamar puts some of the finishing touches on a snowman in front of the capitol building.
USC senior Owen McKagen of Lamar puts some of the finishing touches on a snowman in front of the capitol building.

The snowstorm that hit Columbia and the Midlands over the weekend was about as good as it gets, says Mayor Bob Coble.

"It was in fact a perfect storm," said Coble, using a phrase that generally means truly awful.

What Coble meant this time is that while the storm was by far the biggest snowfall in Columbia in the last 20 to 30 years, there were no major, far-reaching problems.

In a word, he said, the storm was "perfect" - considering what it could have wrought.

"A lot of sound and fury and not much damage," said Coble, for whom past snowstorms and even threats of snow have brought massive traffic gridlock, stranded homeless and bus travelers, and widespread power outages.

This time, Coble said, people had plenty of warning of snow so the city rush-hour evacuation went smoothly, the city's emergency operations meshed well, and there was no lingering ice. To cap things off, a sunny Saturday made for rapid melting.

In Lexington County, also hit by snow, things - except for a few power outages and minor traffic collisions - went well. And kids loved it.

"Numerous snowmen got built," Lexington County Sheriff's Department Maj. John Allard said "And lots of people had snowball fights and even went sledding."

Statewide, things went generally well, said Department of Public Safety director Mark Keel.

From 5 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday, the Highway Patrol and assisting agencies worked 1,507 collisions, Keel said. Most were fender benders and cars skidding into ditches. One patrol car was rear-ended on a slippery stretch of I-77, Keel said.

Hundreds of troopers coordinated well with SLED agents and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in SUVs across the state, Keel said.

"In a snow, they (DNR and SLED) are the ones with four-wheel drive assets," said Keel. "We really depend on those people to help us."

A patrol investigation into a fatality on Monticello Road early Saturday morning has not been finished, so Keel couldn't say whether it was snow-related.

Coble cited a few glitches for Columbia:

- Someone ran out of gas on the Gervais Street bridge and blocked traffic late Friday. About the same time, an accident blocked traffic on an I-26 ramp.

- A tree fell in the 3400 block of Blossom Street, snarling traffic for a time. But it was cleared.

- Dozens, if not hundreds, of fender benders happened in Columbia and across the Midlands. A Columbia police cruiser was hit.

- A power outage hit patches of the city. But electricity was restored by Saturday morning.

A spokeswoman for SCE&G said that about 10,000 households and businesses lost power in the Columbia area Friday night and early Saturday morning. Power was restored to most before noon Saturday.

Across the state, about 49,000 businesses and households lost power in SCE&G's service areas, said spokeswoman Patricia Freshwater. Most outages were due to heavy snow causing trees and branches to fall on power lines.

Late Sunday afternoon, just before nightfall, Coble was driving around the city. The news is still good, he said.

"I don't see any major damage to the streets," he said via cell phone.

Another snowstorm is on its way to the Carolinas, The Associated Press reported Sunday night.

But Columbia's luck appears to be holding. Only mountainous portions of South Carolina are expected to get snow.

Tough luck, kids. No more snowmen for a while.

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