Record-low temperatures were expected Tuesday as frigid air swept across the nation and the Lowcountry overnight.
Beaufort County schools, travelers and gardeners began taking precautions Monday, but many said they didn't expect the cold to cause too many problems.
"We're not going to see what the rest of the nation will be seeing," said Kim Stenson, director of the S.C. Emergency Management Division, at a news conference. "But there are some dangers that will impact our citizens as a result of this cold weather that's coming in that's a bit unusual for South Carolina."
The bitterest cold was expected Tuesday morning, with a forecast low of 19 degrees, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Emily Timte. The previous record low for Jan. 7 is 21 degrees, recorded at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport in 1959.
Beaufort County was also under a wind chill advisory until Tuesday morning. With expected 15- to 25-mph winds and gusts up to 35 mph, Timte said the wind could make it feel as if temperatures are in the single digits. That would approach the all-time low of 3 degrees set in 1985, she said.
After Tuesday night, temperatures should continue to rise throughout the rest of the week and possibly reach the 60s by Friday, Timte said.
The quickly warming temperatures later in the week should keep plants and gardens from being hit too hard, said Laura Lee Rose, a horticulture agent with the Clemson University Extension Service. She said residents should make sure plants are watered well and insulated with a sheet or blanket to protect them from frost.
BEAUFORT COUNTY SCHOOLS
As of Monday evening, the Beaufort County School District had not canceled classes, and schools were scheduled to start at their normal times Tuesday.
District spokesman Jim Foster said all the schools sent email and call notices to parents to make sure their children dressed appropriately while waiting for buses in the morning. The district decided against a later start time because forecasts said temperatures would rise by only 1 degree later in the morning, he said.
The district will keep all of the schools' heating systems on overnight -- they normally cycle off every night -- so the schools will be warmer earlier, Foster said.
Red Cedar Elementary School in Bluffton also planned to allow relatives of students to stay in the school during the day, if their homes are too cold, principal Kathy Corley said. The relatives had to make a reservation and clear a security check, she said.
"There are some people who are not prepared for cold and some places they live that are definitely not prepared for cold," said Corley, who doesn't remember a day this cold in more than five years. "So now they have another option -- to come sit in our warm media center."
Though roads were not expected to ice over, S.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Bob Beres said the patrol would work with the state Department of Transportation to ensure that roads stay safe. Beres said anyone experiencing trouble on the road should dial *HP for help.
Beaufort County has seven extra trucks on standby to help shovel sand onto roads if conditions get icy, county administrator Gary Kubic said. However, county public works director Eddie Bellamy said the last time icy conditions caused problems on major roads in the county was in 1989.
The cold is not expected to affect the Hilton Head or Savannah airports either, officials said. The airports will have extra staff on hand and might have to de-ice some planes, but any cancellations or delays will come from other airports experiencing worse weather, Savannah airport director of marketing and air service development Lori Lynah said.
The freezing temperatures led the Beaufort Downtown Marina to cut off water to those who permanently live on boats, and it drained its pipes to keep them from cracking or bursting, harbor master Rick Griffin said.
The water cutoff affected about six families who live on boats at the marina, and he hoped to have the water back on Wednesday or Thursday.
Griffin said he's looking forward to the weather warming back up.
"Us natives born and raised here, we don't mind the cold weather, but in teens is a little cold for everyone," he said. "We like our winters, but not this cold."
Marina and boaters prepare for cold spell (2:06)
The Downtown Marina of Beaufort and the boat owners who stay there prepare Jan. 6, 2014, for the extreme cold temperatures expected during the next week.
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.