Friday was a day of anticipation for local governments and utility companies as all prepared for a run-in overnight with Old Man Winter.
The rain changed to snow in Beaufort County around 8:30 p.m., according to reports from the National Weather Service in Charleston. The South Carolina Highway Patrol and the Bluffton Township Fire District reported a number of minor, weather-related accidents in the Beaufort and Jasper county areas.
The snow was just beginning to cover the ground, but was not yet accumulating on roads, National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Lamb said. The snow was expected to continue through midnight and taper off around 3 a.m., he said.“Some of the snow is fairly heavy,” Lamb said.
About an inch of accumulation was forecast for Beaufort County. About three inches of snow was forecast for inland counties.Temperatures hovered around 45 degrees most of the day Friday, then began dropping in the early evening. Between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday, temperatures were expected to be below freezing, but to rise afterward and melt any snow that had accumulated.
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Todd Ferguson and the Beaufort County Emergency Management Division took the forecast to heart and began planning for the county’s first significant snowfall in at least a decade.
“We’re told it should start snowing between 6 and 9 tonight,” Ferguson said Friday. “We’re in really good shape. We’ve got some extra dispatchers up here to take calls. We’ve got the (S.C. Department of Transportation) and Public Works ready to deal with roads as needed. I’m not that worried about traffic since the snow will fall when most people are already home. I’m more concerned with tree limbs coming down.”
Beaufort and Jasper County school districts canceled all after-school activities Friday, and the University of South Carolina Beaufort canceled evening classes. Beaufort County also canceled all of its Parks and Leisure Services activities Friday night and delayed today’s opening of its recycling centers by three hours, until 10 a.m. A number of high school basketball games and the Class 3-A wrestling championship today, which features the team from Hilton Head High School, also were postponed. Local law enforcement was keeping close tabs on the weather Friday.
“It doesn’t really change our operation,” said Cpl. Robin McIntosh, spokeswoman for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. “We’ll just wait and see what happens and go from there, like any other weather situation.”
The S.C. Department of Transportation launched a site Friday providing drivers updates on road conditions on the state’s major thoroughfares, and was keeping an eye on bridges and overpasses as temperatures dropped. Earlier in the day, crews treated them with salt, said James Law, a DOT spokesman.
“We haven’t had any major problems,” Law said at 8 p.m. “Everything is pretty much like we expected it to be.”
The S.C. Highway Patrol sent out two pages of winter driving tips.
Trish Freshwater, spokeswoman for SCE&G, said the company was prepared for the worst.
“We’ll constantly monitor the storm, put people on standby to respond to any major outages and just make sure that we’re ready to go where needed,” Freshwater said. “Everything is kind of up in the air tonight, and we’re hoping that Mother Nature is kind to us.”
Power outages also were being reported at 9:15 p.m. Friday by nearly 8,000 SCE&G customers in Charleston and Dorchester counties.
The snow that began falling Friday was expected to begin melting soon aftersunrise today, when temperatures were forecast to go up into the 40s.
Island Packet reporter Renee Dudley contributed to this article.