Unusually cold and windy weather that blew in Tuesday night and lingered into today will go quickly, with temperatures rising to a more seasonal 70 degrees by the end of the week.
The gyrations are part of an unusual winter, in which predictions beyond a five-day forecast could essentially be determined by a coin flip, according to a National Weather Service Charleston meteorologist.
"Climatologically the cold should be behind us, but this winter has been anything but normal," Brett Cimbora said. "The temperature Wednesday is far off from normal, but it is not nearly as cold as it could be."
The latest cold snap could be the last of the season -- or not, according to Cimbora.
Late Tuesday, temperatures in the area were expected to drop to near freezing, approaching record lows set in 1902, he said. Winds as strong as 30 mph also were possible overnight, added NWS meteorologist Blair Holloway.
The cold weather was expected to taper by sunrise, but Wednesday's highs in the mid-50s were closer to normal lows this time of year, Cimbora said. Holloway said Wednesday's forecasted temperatures are between 15 and 18 degrees colder than normal.
Temperatures should return to the mid-60s by Thursday and the low-70s for Friday and Saturday, Holloway said.
Unpredictable late-winter and early spring weather can make for anxious moments at Harbour Town Golf Links, where preparations for the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing are underway. Hilton Head Island's annual PGA Tour event is less than three weeks away.
Tournament director Steve Wilmot said he and golf course superintendent Jonathan Wright are monitoring the weather closely, but he was optimistic Tuesday that it would warm up.
Unlike cold fronts in January, the quick cold Wednesday isn't likely to cause much damage to plumbing, according to Beaufort Plumbing owner Keith Kelley. Temperatures would have to drop into the mid-20s and last longer than a few hours before sunrise Wednesday morning for that to happen, he said.
Plant nurseries were taking precautions, however.
Employees of Mother Earth Landscaping on Lady's Island spent nearly two hours bringing their plant stock inside, owner Mark Dixon said.
"We're not taking any chances," he said. "There's a real chance for frost, so new growth could be affected."
Dixon advised covering plants or bringing potted plants inside, especially tropical varieties that could have already been damaged by earlier cold fronts.
Mark Nizolek of Hilton Head-based Bruno Landscaping cautioned owners of perennials and shrubs to wait before cutting them back. Nizolek said soil temperatures were still too low to foster growth in those plants, so it would be too early to determine if previous cold fronts had damaged them.
He also said azaleas shouldn't be adversely affected by the latest cold, but instead should boost the plants when they bloom.
"Some have been burnt, but not as badly as other plants," he said. "We should have really nice blooms. A cold winter actually brings better blooms, because azaleas bloom early during a warm winter and we only get a partial bloom. We should have a good one in April."
Wilmot said he knew just the week for that to happen.
"Hopefully they'll bloom during the tournament," he said.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.
- Freezing rain, sleet, snow fall across Beaufort County; concern remains for Thursday morning drivers, Jan. 29, 2014: http://bit.ly/1fYOfOX