South Carolina

Big storm brings dangerous ice to Upstate

Anna Lee

The Greenville News

National Weather Service Upstate forecast, 10:48pm 01-21-16
National Weather Service Upstate forecast, 10:48pm 01-21-16

The first snowstorm of the year could leave the Upstate glazed in ice as a mix of freezing rain and snow moves in overnight.

All Greenville County schools and offices are closed Friday. The instructional day will be made up per the school year calendar, the school district said in a release Thursday night.

Schools in Pickens, Spartanburg and Oconee counties are also closed Friday due to a winter storm warning in effect from midnight Thursday to 7 p.m. Saturday. The warning, issued by the National Weather Service in Greer, covers the greater Greenville and Pickens area as well as the cities of Spartanburg, Anderson, Westminster, Clemson, Seneca and Walhalla.

A winter storm warning means significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice are expected or occurring.

In Greenville, a mix of snow and sleet was expected to fall before dawn Friday and continue into Saturday, bringing 4 to 5 inches of snowfall and nearly a half inch of ice, the Weather Service said.

Wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour are also possible and could result in widespread power outages and downed tree limbs, the Weather Service said.

Travel conditions could turn treacherous Friday as the wintry mix gives way to freezing rain by 9 a.m.

AccuWeather reported that swaths of Interstate 85 could turn into a "nearly invisible glaze of ice." The state Department of Transportation said the corridor will likely be "Ground Zero" for the storm.

The DOT said road crews have already begun to pre-treat Upstate routes with salt brine, focusing on I-85 and the northern parts of the counties.

More than 1,400 Duke Energy utility workers from Florida and other regions moved to the Carolinas Thursday in anticipation of widespread power outages caused by overnight snow and sleet.

Those responders will join 3,200 line workers throughout the Carolinas, staging in areas across both states for quick deployment to address downed power lines and outages.

While the National Weather Service predicted heavy snow for much of Western North Carolina, the winter storm warnings for Charlotte and Greenville, South Carolina included freezing rain.

Even fairly small deviations in the amount of ice that falls, weighing down trees and power lines, can cause the number of outages to swing widely, said Tom Williams, a Duke spokesman.

“The storm is unusual because it’s right on the edge: Is it going to be snow or is it going to be ice?” Williams said. “Typically anytime you get more than a quarter inch to a half inch of ice, you have pretty significant outages and if you get three-quarters of an inch of ice, you have severe outages.”

Should the power fail, Duke officials are reminding customers that homes should not be heated with gas grills or generators and to check on family and neighbors who have medical issues or are elderly.

Power outages can be reported to Duke through several methods:

Call the automated outage-reporting system at 1-800-POWERON (1-800-769-3766)

Report an outage or view current outages online at www.duke-energy.com/storm

Text OUT to 57801

Downed power lines should avoided and reported to Duke Energy as well.

The Red Cross has safety steps people should follow during this massive storm which will affect people through the weekend.

“This storm has the potential to cause power outages, unsafe driving conditions and home fires. We encourage everyone to take precautions now and stay informed on the changing conditions,” said Ann Wright, executive director for the American Red Cross of Central SC.

More than 50 million people are likely to be affected by the weekend storm that will unfurl into a blizzard as it heads north, shutting down highways and airports in its path, AccuWeather reported.

Airlines, including United and Delta, have announced travel delays and cancellations at more than 30 airports from Washington D.C. to New York City, AccuWeather said.

In anticipation of the storm, the Weather Service has issued the following safety tips:

  • Locate flashlights, lanterns and portable radios now so they're easily accessible if the power goes out.
  • Never operate a generator indoors, inside the garage or near the air intake of a home because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Use extreme care when using kerosene heaters, which should be refueled outdoors and kept at least 3 feet away from flammable objects.

If you must travel, the Weather Service advises to carry extra weight such as sand bags in the trunk of the car or truck bed. Keep gas tanks near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Preparing an emergency kit with items such as a shovel, windshield scraper, flashlight, battery-powered radio, tow chain or rope, road salt, booster cables and emergency flares may also be useful.

Greenville news staff writers Liv Osby and Tonya Maxwell contributed to this report

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