A winter storm with an extended period of freezing rain, sleet and snow is expected to hit York, Chester and Lancaster counties early Friday, with treacherous travel possible through the weekend, forecasters say.
The National Weather Service is calling for hazardous winter weather in the Rock Hill area beginning Friday morning with freezing rain and sleet, gradually changing to snow on Friday night and Saturday morning.
“This has the potential to be a significant event,” said Danny Gant, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greer.
Gant said it may include “widespread power outages, and the roads are going to be almost impassable.” Up to an inch of sleet and snow is expected to accumulate.
Gant said dangerous travel conditions could persist through Sunday and perhaps Monday if accumulated ice and snow does not melt.
York County’s four school districts and Chester and Lancaster county schools called off Friday classes due to the weather. Winthrop University also announced that classes will be cancelled and offices closed Friday.
All branches of the York County Library will be closed Friday and Saturday.
Duke Energy said it was gearing up for the storm by calling in extra manpower. The company said ice and snow accumulations can bring down trees and power lines, and that power outages are expected.
The company said more than 1,400 additional line workers were headed to the Carolinas on Thursday to help out about 3,200 Duke Energy workers who were already poised to respond.
Most of those workers are coming to the Carolinas from Florida, the company said.
“We will deploy crews as outages occur,” Duke Energy said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to work to secure additional resources through our Mutual Aid agreement with neighboring utilities, many of whom are watching and preparing for the same winter storm.”
Todd Cook, district maintenance engineer with the S.C. Department of Transportation office in Chester, said road crews were applying salt brine Thursday to prevent ice and snow from sticking.
He said crews would continue applying salt brine during the storm, and would be out clearing roads if necessary. “We always prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Cook said. “We’re ready for it.”
Freezing rain is expected to begin around daybreak Friday in the Rock Hill area, with a period of steadily worsening freezing rain and sleet, Gant said.
“It’s going to take some time for conditions to deteriorate,” Gant said.
City of Rock Hill offices were expected to remain open Friday, but municipal court could be delayed if the Rock Hill school district closes for the day. City public works crews had prepared their trucks Thursday evening and were preparing to lay down brine on the roads based on weather conditions.
Electric crews were preparing to respond to downed power lines, and the city warned in a statement that customers should prepare for outages.
“Multiple city crews will be on call tonight should the ice accumulation begin earlier than expected,” Rock Hill spokeswoman Katie Quinn said in an emailed statement.
“It’s going to change over to snow, probably around midnight Friday night into Saturday morning,” Gant said. “That will hang around until probably at least midday Saturday, and it will be tapering down.”
Although snowfall is expected to end during the day Saturday, Gant said accumulated ice and snow could continue to make travel dangerous for a day, and possibly longer.
“If we have ice on the ground, and snow on top of that, it’s going to take time to melt away,” Gant said. “There’s still going to be impacts after the snowfall ends on Saturday and into Sunday, maybe even Monday, we are going to have dangerous driving conditions.”
The region’s extended forecast calls for highs in the mid-40s on Sunday, with lows in the mid-20s Sunday night. Monday’s high is expected in the upper 30s.
Winter weather preparations
Duke Energy offered this advice to customers in advance of an expected winter storm:
▪ Check supplies of flashlights, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable foods and medicines.
▪ Ensure a portable, battery-operated radio, TV or weather radio is on hand.
▪ Avoid heating homes with a gas grill or bringing a generator inside. Such equipment should be operated only outdoors, and only in well-ventilated areas. Manufacturer instructions should be followed.
▪ Check on family members, friends and neighbors who have special medical needs or who are elderly to ensure they have necessary emergency supplies.
▪ Determine now what action you would need to take in the event of an extended power outage.