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‘Monitor this thing’: No snow forecast, but ice could cause problems

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Winter Weather Prep

South Carolina Department of Transportation Maintenance Supervisor Randy Brunson readies a snow plow on Thursday in anticipation of winter weather in The T&D Region.

Trace amounts of ice could accumulate on T&D Region roads on Sunday morning, making travel conditions hazardous.

“Right now the risk for us is still there,” Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said. “It all depends on where this system sets up when it makes its turn. We are still staying ready and still encouraging everybody to monitor this thing.”

“It could change,” Staley continued. “Be prepared.”

A large portion of The T&D Region could see ice accumulations between .01 to .1 inch, according to a Thursday evening weather brief released by the National Weather Service.

This includes all of Calhoun County, the northern portion of Bamberg County and most of Orangeburg County with the exception of places like Holly Hill and Eutawville, according to the NWS.

The greatest chance of freezing rain could occur around 7 a.m. Sunday.

The highly unlikely and worst case scenario would bring about .1 to .25 inches of ice to northwestern Orangeburg County areas like Woodford and North and most of Calhoun County, except for southeastern portions of the county.

A February 2014 storm brought ice accumulations between three quarters of an inch to one inch. In some cases, ice was between one inch and 1-1/2 inches.

The latest forecasts for the T&D Region call for no snow accumulation under the most likely scenario and a dusting under the worst-case scenario.

The NWS noted that black ice is a concern.

“Temperatures will drop to freezing across much of the area Sunday night, possibly causing refreezing to occur and black ice to become a concern. Highs on Monday will only be in the 40s,” the NWS said in its brief.

According to the NWS, the Orangeburg area is forecast to receive about 1-1/2 to 2-3/4 inches of rain Saturday night into Sunday, with a high near 43. The low temperature Sunday morning will be around 34.

Area emergency and utility officials said they are prepared for anything.

"Our processes have not changed as we still prefer to err on the side of caution," Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities spokesman Randy Etters said Thursday. "While the NWS has lowered our chances for significant ice accumulations, it does not eliminate them.”

“Therefore, we are still prepping our equipment and our staffing levels as we wait for the models to coalesce around a consistent forecast,” Etters continued. “As with any predicted weather event, we are planning for it to occur, while hoping that it does not.”

The NWS says areas north of Interstate 20 will most likely see the greatest impacts from the storm in the form of freezing rain.

“Small changes in the development of this system can make drastic changes in the forecast,” Orangeburg County said in a statement released Thursday. It asked residents to plan for any scenario the system could produce.

The Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency remained vigilant Thursday to ensure it is ready for whatever happens.

“Tomorrow we’ll meet with all department heads and emergency response services to kind of double check,” county Emergency Services Director David Chojnacki said.

“We are trying to make sure are (ready),” he said.

Through Thursday afternoon, there were no watches, warnings or advisories in place for The T&D Region. A winter storm watch was issued for the Upstate as far down as Newberry for snowfall totals potentially up to 2 inches and ice up to a quarter of an inch.

The S.C. Department of Transportation maintenance office in Orangeburg was prepping snow plows and filling hoppers with brine on Thursday. The office has a total of eight snow plows.

Walt Holladay, SCDOT resident maintenance engineer for the Orangeburg office, says despite the shift in the weather forecast, the Orangeburg office will be assisting other areas of the state if needed.

“We are ready,” Holladay said.

In a winter weather emergency, SCDOT employees follow a designated plan in each county.

Interstate highways are the first priority, followed by primary routes and areas near medical facilities and emergency shelters.

SCDOT employees work 12-hour shifts of pre-emptive ice treatments, snow plowing and spreading salt and other materials to achieve safer, improved road conditions.

Orangeburg County government officials are offering residents the following tips for dealing with the upcoming weather:

• Stay informed on the weather and road conditions.

• Stay off the roads for unnecessary travel. If you must travel, check over your vehicle’s fluids, battery and tires.

• If you must go outside, keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent losing body heat.

• Ensure your phone maintains charge so it can be used during an emergency.

• If you lose power, report it to the utility company and have an alternate and safe way to keep warm prepared.

• Properly vent kerosene heaters to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, and do not burn charcoal indoors as its fumes can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

• Do not operate portable generators indoors.

• Freezing temperatures can burst water pipes in homes without heat or proper insulation. Wrap exposed pipes or take other insulating measures.

• Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.

• Bring pets inside; don’t forget to wipe your dog’s paws, as some ice-melting chemicals are not pet-friendly.

• Move livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

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