All area schools and most government offices are closed Wednesday as meteorologists predict winter weather in the area will escalate from snow to sleet and freezing rain.
Emergency officials warn that roads could be slick today after Tuesday’s snow combined with falling temperatures overnight.
Snow accumulation could reach up to 7 inches in York and Chester counties, according to the National Weather Service. Lancaster County will likely see more rain, with new snow accumulation around 3 inches.
On Tuesday, York, Chester and Lancaster counties received between one to three inches of snow, said National Weather Service meteorologist Justin Lane.
Tuesday’s snowfall provided a thin blanket for most of the tri-county area, but the winter storm, named Pax, is expected to bring up to a quarter-inch of sleet and freezing rain on Wednesday.
Emergency officials urge drivers to use caution and stay off the roads if possible.
The expected ice could cause power outages in areas where electrical lines are above ground.
The storm is a much stronger storm than the system that visited the area earlier this month and is drawing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, Lane said. He said the storm is expected to strengthen as it moves along the coast late Wednesday before moving out by Thursday night.
Area law enforcement agencies reported relatively few traffic accidents Tuesday but officials say Wednesday could be much different. The state Department of Transportation told York County officials on Tuesday that their workers’ focus would be on keeping Interstate 77 and major thoroughfares clear. Crews are also expected to spread sand, salt and brine along major roads.
The S.C. Highway Patrol said troopers will likely not be available to help tow disabled vehicles but they will be ready to transport stranded motorists from their cars to a safe, warm location. Piedmont Medical Center EMS said it will have more ambulances in service Wednesday in case of weather-related injuries or traffic collisions.
The American Red Cross has designated several emergency shelters in York, Chester and Lancaster counties they will activate in case weather conditions fill up the various warming centers, said Stephanie White, executive director of the Red Cross Upper Palmetto chapter.
Snowmen and “snow cream”
While Wednesday’s forecast calls for a wintry mix, some in the area enjoyed being out in the snow Tuesday.
Miley Rhoad, 6, was busy collecting snow for “snow cream” with a plastic bin at the front yard of her Rock Hill home near Confederate Park. The Northside Elementary first-grader and other Rock Hill school district students were dismissed early Tuesday because of the snow.
Miley crossed the street with her father and 5-year-old cousin Roe Roach, with two old wooden sleds, ready to slide their way down a snowy hill in the park.
“I love it,” said Evan Rhoad, 30, who works in Charlotte and watched as his daughter and nephew laid down on the sled and braced themselves for a slippery descent.
At Winthrop University, juniors Jessie Rogers and Brett Hagen were avoiding homework and constructing a tall snowman. Both 20-year-olds are originally from the south – Rogers from Florida and Hagen from Texas – so the snow was a welcome and rare sight.
Winthrop classmate Mia Anderson stopped to greet a dog along the university’s Scholars Walk. Anderson, who hails from Charleston, is studying social work and was glad classes would be cancelled Wednesday.
“I don’t like the cold part, I like the snow,” said Anderson. “I’ve never seen this much.”
Crews assigned to affected areas
York County officials are prepared to station volunteer firefighters to assist state workers in helping stranded motorists, especially along Interstate 77.
Firefighters from Lesslie, Oakdale, Riverview and Flint Hill departments are on call to help the Highway Patrol and Department of Natural Resources officers.
In Rock Hill, about 35 firefighters are on each shift to handle routine and emergency calls for service. York County’s four-wheel drive brush trucks are also ready to be used to help drivers and keep the highways clear if state resources cannot keep up with demands for service on I-77.
Duke Energy has begun moving crews in anticipation of the winter storm. A total of 150 workers are en route from the company’s Midwest operations to Greensboro, N.C., and another 250 are coming up from Florida and will be staged in Florence. They will bolster the company’s regular complement of line technicians, service crews and other personnel who all stand ready to respond as outages occur.
The winter storm comes from the combination of cold air from Canada and low-pressure moisture from the northern Gulf of Mexico, forecasters say, bringing snow, sleet and freezing rain to Georgia and the Carolinas.
The Herald’s Andrew Dys, Jonathan McFadden and Jie Jenny Zou contributed