Winter storm warning issued for York, Chester, Lancaster counties

adouglas@heraldonline.comFebruary 10, 2014 

  • The weather forecast

    The National Weather Service predicts that the Upstate will see a light coating of snow and possibly sleet starting Tuesday. Snowfall is expected to become heavier on Wednesday and be mixed with sleet and freezing rain south of the Interstate 85 corridor with 2 to 4 inches of snow possible for the region.

    Forecasts for Rock Hill predict a 70 percent chance of snow Tuesday, while Lancaster has a 60 percent chance of snow and sleet Tuesday, and Chester a 70 percent chance. Temperatures for the next several days will range from the upper 20s to lower 30s, with wind gusts reaching up to 25 mph.

    Weather service officials said Rock Hill could get 6 inches of snow this week and Charlotte could see 8 inches.

A winter storm warning has been issued for York, Chester and Lancaster counties beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The National Weather Service says at least six inches of snow could fall in the region between late Tuesday and Thursday. Light snow should fall most of Tuesday but become heavier early Wednesday.

The winter storm warning has been issued in advance of a wintry blast that will affect western North Carolina and South Carolina and parts of Georgia.

In Rock Hill, officials and work crews are bracing for a “multi-day weather event,” said Kevin Bronson, general services administrator for the city.

Snow is expected by mid-morning Tuesday. But Rock Hill crews are preparing for possible snow and ice accumulation on roads by Wednesday.

Combining the possibility of snow and ice with high winds and low temperatures, Bronson said, means city utility and public works crews are ready to work long shifts.

Plans to apply brine to area roads Monday were thwarted by rain. On Tuesday, Bronson said, crews will likely use salt, brine and sand trucks to apply a layer of grit to Rock Hill roads. The city also has two snow plows for trucks in case snow accumulates on roads.

Rock Hill workers had a winter storm “practice run” about two weeks ago, he said, when light snow fell in the area and schools were closed or delayed for two days because of icy roads. But this week’s weather is expected to be more severe.

The city of Rock Hill had no power outages during the last winter storm. This week could be different with freezing rain in the forecast, said Mike Jolly, Rock Hill’s electric operations manager. He and others spent part of Monday in “storm prep” meetings, but there’s no fail-proof way to avoid outages if trees bring down power lines or a coat of ice covers electric equipment.

Even a quarter-inch of ice, Jolly said, can cause major problems for an electrical system. The good news in Rock Hill, he said, is that nearly half of the city’s 33,000 customers are served by underground utility lines which are much less likely to fail during inclement weather.

In the event of an outage, he said, city officials will prioritize restoration efforts, starting with “critical infrastructure” such as hospital and medical facilities. Rock Hill will dispatch assessment crews if bad weather strikes and then send linemen and other utility repair crews to address any outages, Jolly said.

In December 2002, more than 70,000 customers in York, Chester and Lancaster counties were without power for up to several days after an ice storm. The damage was so severe that a presidential disaster declaration was issued.

Officials with Rock Hill, Duke Energy and York Electric Cooperative said that right-of-way limb removal is done throughout the year in anticipation of severe weather events. Duke Energy serves more than 65,000 customers in York, Chester and Lancaster counties, and York Electric Cooperative services more than 46,000 customers.

The storm is not expected to hit the entire state, so electric cooperatives from other parts of South Carolina are on standby if needed here, said Marc Howie, York Cooperative vice president.

Rock Hill residents can report outages by calling 803-329-5500. But, a faster, more efficient way of reporting outages is available for those who are able to access the city’s website at www.cityofrockhill.com/outage.

In the event of inclement weather, city officials ask that, where possible, residents push trash cans to the curb on normal schedule. Trash and recycling pickup may be delayed, but Rock Hill’s sanitation crews typically stay on duty during bad weather.

Duke electricity customers can report outages by calling 800-769-3766 or visiting the company’s mobile site, m.duke-energy.com. York Cooperative customers can report outages by calling 1-866-374-1234.

If the storm is severe, it could take York County at least a week to recover, said Cotton Howell, York County’s emergency management director. Howell said his primary concern is the effect the ice can have on trees and power lines. Heavy snow, he said, can bring down trees on power lines.

Services that assist special needs populations are already planning for the potential disruptions and have prepared staff to be self-sufficient.

The York County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs has more than a thousand clients, including hundreds who live in 26 residential group homes. Staff members at those homes are prepared to stay overnight Tuesday and thereafter with clients if travel becomes hazardous, said Mary Poole, executive director for the disabilities board. Also, those homes are stocked with emergency food and medical supplies, Poole said.

“We have an emergency plan in place for all our locations that will make sure all the people we serve are cared for,” Poole said.

In Lancaster County, emergency officials said Monday that shelters will be open to anyone who loses power or heat. Residents should call 803-283-4136 for assistance.

Check heraldonline.com for updates on winter weather and school closings.

Andrew Dys, Jie Jenny Zou and Jonathan McFadden contributed

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