Beaufort County is under a winter weather advisory after Winter Storm Grayson zipped up the Southeast Coast on Wednesday and brought the area its first significant snowfall in years.
The advisory, issued just after 7 p.m. by the National Weather Service, warns of black-ice road conditions and dangerous wind chills ranging as low as 8 degrees. The advisory is in effect till 11 a.m. Thursday.
Grayson caused plenty of headaches throughout the day.
The storm, which began as a freezing-rain event and transitioned to sleet and snow in the afternoon, turned beaches white, slicked roadways and closed bridges.
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Dozens of accidents were reported, and thousands lost power.
A winter weather advisory is in place until 11 a.m. Thursday for southeast South Carolina and southeast Georgia, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
Hilton Head Island received 4.5 inches of snow, Neil Dixon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said Wednesday evening. Bluffton reported 4 inches, he said, adding the service had not received reports from the Beaufort area. Savannah Hilton Head International Airport recorded 1.2 inches, he said.
It’s been almost four years since the Lowcountry saw a winter storm with sleet, freezing rain and a dusting of snow, according to the National Weather Service. And it’s been about eight years since a storm brought 3 inches of snow to the Beaufort area,The February 2010 storm was the biggest snowstorm in more than a decade.
There have been just eight snowfall events in Beaufort County in the past 53 years — including the Christmas snowstorm of 1989 — according to the Weather Service.
“It’s been nonstop,” Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Bob Bromage said Wednesday afternoon, referring to reports of car accidents. “The conditions, they’re not conducive to safe driving at this point.”
Bromage said 42 motor-vehicle accident calls had been phoned into Beaufort County dispatchers by 1 p.m. Wednesday. He said sheriff’s office personnel and other public safety officials had responded to more than 50 wrecks in the county as of 5 p.m.
S.C. Highway Patrolman Lance Cpl. Matthew Southern said more than 100 incidents — including road closures, accidents and calls for assistance — had been received in Troop 6, the six-county area that includes Beaufort and Jasper counties. As of 3 p.m., the Troop was down to 62 incidents, he said.
Bluffton Police Department spokeswoman Joy Nelson reported that a town officer slid off the road and into a ditch in the early afternoon hours. “That’s another reason we’re telling everyone to please stay off the roads,” she said. “It’s even dangerous for police officers to be driving.”
Nelson said town officers had responded to 11 incidents as of 3:30 p.m. “But conditions are getting worse,” she said.
About a dozen county bridges were closed at points during the storm. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Sol Blatt, Rose Dhu and Steel bridges and the Cross Island Parkway remained closed, according to county officials.
Electric crews have been working to restore power to area customers. SCE&G reported almost 4,000 customers in Beaufort County were without power late Wednesday morning. As of 5:40 p.m., that number was 249, according to the company’s online outage map, but it jumped back to more than 2,300 around 7:15 p.m.
The Savannah Hilton Head International airport closed Wednesday morning, which resulted in 78 canceled flights that affected about 4,500 passengers, according to an airport spokesperson.
Beaufort and Jasper counties public schools closed Wednesday and Thursday.
As of 3 p.m., four people had sought refuge at the Red Cross shelter at Beaufort Elementary School, one of two shelters opened during the storm in the county, according to the agency. The second, at H.E. McCracken Middle School in Bluffton, was closed Wednesday evening, “as a need was not sustained,” according to release from the county’s emergency management division.
Winter Storm Grayson is forecast to continue up the East Coast this week. Storm warnings stretch from South Carolina to eastern New England, according to the National Weather Service.
It could bring a foot of snow to Boston, and it could dump up to 18 inches on other parts of New England.
The storm will likely also produce coastal flooding, strong winds and ice as it marches north.
And as temperatures are forecast to remain cold for the next couple of days in the Lowcountry, Beaufort County drivers will continue to encounter icy roads and slick spots.