Charleston, Beaufort get snowfall; mercury falls near zero overnight
Frozen pipes 3-C
From staff and wire reports
Old Man Winter pushed his frosty nose into South Carolina on Monday, plunging temperature to near zero and even producing a rare snowfall along the cost.
The bitting cold was only part of a late January freeze that stiffened the East Coast from Vermont to Florida, closing schools in at least seven states and sending Florida citrus growers to their groves in an effort to protect crops.
In South Carolina, temperatures were expected to drop to near five degrees in Columbia on Monday night, with readings near zero in the Upstate and about 10 degrees along the coast. The wind-chill factor was expected to be 5 degrees below zero along the coast, and as low as 20 degrees below zero in the Upstate.
“The number of times the temperature has fallen below 10 degrees in Columbia you can almost count on one hand,” state Climatologist John Purvis said Monday.
By midday in Columbia, the mercury had dipped to 24 degrees with winds gusting to 36 mph.
Snow fell along the coast as far south as Hilton Head and Savannah. The flurries in Charleston were the first in more than five years, and while only a half-inch was recorded, it fell quickly and caused hazardous driving conditions.
“We’ve had a whole rash of accidents this morning,” said Highway Patrol Sgt. R. D. Way in Charleston. “All our bridges and overpasses had patchy ice on them, but we sanded them pretty quickly.”
Major problems were reported on the two bridges spanning the Cooper River between Charleston and Mt. Pleasant.
The older bridge, built in the 1920s, was closed for several hours while highway crews sanded the roadway. The newer bridge next to it was also closed for about 2 hours.
Police responded to five accidents on the two bridges, and there also was 13-vehicle pileup on Interstate 26 near the Cosgrove Avenue exit. Authorities said there were no major injuries, although several motorists had to be taken to local hospitals for treatment.
“Carolina people just don’t know how to drive in the snow,” said Lt. Buster Edwards of the Mount Pleasant police.
In Beaufort County, where the snow also caused a rash fender-benders, it was har to get a dial tone on the telephone because of the heavy number of outgoing calls.
“It seems like…places with a climate where it’s not supposed to snow, people get really excited when it does,” said Mike Morrison, district service manager for United Telephone of the Carolinas.
“When they start calling up all their friends to tell them about it, it locks up our system.”
Light snow and flurries were reported all over the state early Monday.
“We had a good snow, enough to cover the roads,” said Colleton County sheriff’s dispatcher Susie Drain. She said it was the first snowfall in that county since 1973.
In parts of Richland and Fairfield Counties, snow fell for about 45 minutes after 8:30 a.m. and blanketed the ground before melting.
Elgin-area residents said they experienced a 15-mintue “Blizzard” that stuck briefly before melting. The heavy snowfall caused no accidents, “just a lot of excitement,” said Town Clerk Nettie Campbell.
Earlier in the morning, snow in Aiken County caused some roads and bridges to ice over and prompted county school officials to cancel classes for the day.
Later in the day, snow flurries were reported during the early afternoon in Newberry County and portions of the Upstate, but there were no reported accumulations.
Light flurries were reported about 9:20 a.m. in Kershaw, Sumter and Lee counties, and scattered flurries with no accumulation were reported throughout the day in Florence and surrounding areas.
There were no power outages or school closing in those counties, but flurries did force schools to close in Oconee, Aiken, Berkeley, Dorchester and Colleton counties. Afternoon kindergarten classes were canceled in Charleston County, and a number of private academies in the area closed early, as well.
Warning were issued to protect pets, livestocks and other property that could be adversely affected by the subzero weather.
Linda Brownlee, administrative specialist with the S. C. Forestry Commission in Florence, said the high there Monday was 35 degrees, with the low expected to reach 10 before dawn today.
A high-pressure system over the central United States was expected to continue the movement of cold air into the Southeast. Below-zero windchill reading were expected to remain in most locations into today, as clear skies permitted overnight lows to drop well below the normal 30 degree reading for late January.
Temperatures were expected to warm into the mid-30’s today as the cold weather system continues to move eastward, and the outlook through Friday is clear and not quite so cold, with highs in the 50s by Friday.
The cold weather brought the less fortunate into shelters Monday night. Several in the Columbia area reported full or near-full houses.
“We normally have 27 beds available in our men’s dormitory, but we had only one left by 5 pm.,” said Jan Hines of the Salvation Army. “We have four mattresses we can put on the floor, and if women and children come in, we will have to put them up in a motel.
“We also make referrals to other agencies. More people tend to come in for shelter when we have cold like this.”
The Oliver Gospel Mission and Providence Home said their facilities are pretty much full all the time, bad weather or not.
The cold also affected animals, said the ideal solution to potential problems would be to bring animals inside. Otherwise, owners should be sure bedding is supplied for pets that remain out.
“A lot of people put their animals in a garage, but that usually means a cold cement floor,” She said. “If they have to stay out, bedding such as hay, blankets or carpet scraps should be provided. Hay is best because the pet will make a nest to contain body heat.
“Also their water should be changed often because it freezes so quickly, and animals need more food so they can generate body heat.”