Chances of a wintry mix of sleet, rain and snow in Beaufort County on Wednesday have increased with an upgrade to a winter storm warning, according to forecasters.
The warning, issued early Tuesday evening, is in effect from 6 a.m. Wednesday morning through midnight on Thursday.
Carl Barnes, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said the upgrade from a watch to a warning means forecasters’ confidence that Beaufort County’s chances of seeing up to two inches of snow within 12 hours has increased from 50 percent to 80 percent.
Schools, local government agencies and daycares across the Lowcountry have already announced Wednesday closings.
Straying from earlier forecasts that predicted the highest accumulations of snow along the coast, Barnes said the latest models are showing more ice and sleet along the coast and snow concentrated further inland. Sleet generally accumulates slower than snow.
“It works against each other,” he said. “When you have more of one, you typically have less of the other.”
Hilton Head Island and Fripp Island are expected to get less than an inch of snow, Barnes said, while Bluffton and Beaufort may see between one and two inches.
Ice accumulations of around one tenth of an inch are forecast for the area, according to the winter storm warning.
“Any amount of snow will be significant since we’re in the South,” said Michael Stroz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The weather service says the snow, sleet or ice accumulations may impact travel across the Lowcountry, starting as early as midnight Wednesday. Freezing rain is expected in the mixture before 2 p.m. Wednesday, while after 3 p.m., Beaufort County will likely see a mixture of rain and snow.
Jasper, Colleton, Dorchester, Berkeley and Charleston counties are also included in the winter storm warning.
Stroz said that any precipitation that falls tomorrow should stick around through Thursday.
“Temperatures will be cold, so we shouldn’t expect any of the precipitation on the roads to melt before Thursday afternoon,” Stroz said.
SCE&G is asking its customers to reduce their energy usage during the extreme cold weather.
“We expect the demand for power to be extremely high over the next several days,” Keller Kissam, SCE&G president, said in a news release. “As a precautionary measure, we are asking customers to voluntarily reduce energy consumption, especially in the early morning hours ... to help ensure the continued reliable supply of electricity.”
Customers are asked to turn off nonessential lights, set thermostats to 68 degrees or lower and limit the use of major power-consuming equipment such as dishwashers, washers and dryers, the news release said.
Watches and advisories for the Lowcountry
Beaufort County and coastal Jasper and Colleton counties are under a wind chill advisory through 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the weather service.
That means wind chills are expected to range from 5 to 15 degrees. The cold wind chills on exposed skin can cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes.
About 7 a.m. Tuesday, the temperature at the Beaufort County Airport on Hilton Head Island was 23 degrees with a wind chill of 10 degrees. Beaufort County will be in a winter storm watch from Wednesday morning through the evening.
On Tuesday morning, Charleston International Airport tied the 1940 record for lowest temperature.
While the potential for snow is in the forecast only on Wednesday, it will be bitterly cold the rest of the week, Carpenter said.
“We’ll see lows in the 20s most days this week,” he said.
But it won’t last long, he added.
Next Monday’s forecast includes a high in the 60s, he said, and that’s warmer than normal for this time of year.
Beaufort County forecast
Sunny. Highs in the upper 30s. Wind chill values as low as 9 above this morning. North winds 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.
Partly cloudy in the evening, then mostly cloudy with a chance of freezing rain after midnight. Lows in the mid 20s. Wind chill values as low as 15. Ice accumulation around a trace. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation 40 percent.
Sleet. Snow likely with a chance of freezing rain in the morning, then snow in the afternoon. Highs in the upper 30s. Wind chill values as low as 14 in the morning. Snow and sleet accumulation of 1 to 3 inches. North winds 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. Chance of precipitation 90 percent.
Partly cloudy with snow likely with a slight chance of freezing rain in the evening, then mostly clear after midnight. Little or no additional snow accumulation. Lows in the mid 20s. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. Chance of precipitation 70 percent.
Sunny. Highs in the lower 40s. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. Wind chill values as low as 15 in the morning.
Mostly clear. Lows in the lower 20s. Wind chill values as low as 15.
Sunny. Highs in the lower 40s. Wind chill values as low as 15 in the morning.
Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 20s.
Sunny. Highs in the lower 40s.
Mostly clear. Lows in the upper 20s.
Mostly sunny. Highs around 50.
Mostly cloudy. Lows around 40.
Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of showers. Highs in the lower 60s.
Source: National Weather Service