State, region preparing for winter weather

By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published Jan. 28, 2014

More than 1,500 maintenance employees are available to the S.C. Department of Transportation to help keep the roads clear during this week’s winter storm, expected to start this afternoon.

SCDOT has 77 tons of salt, 98 tons of sand, nearly 18,000 gallons of calcium chloride and nearly 155,000 gallons of salt brine ready to be applied to the roadways if necessary, according to a news release.

Charleston and portions of southeastern South Carolina are under an ice storm warning until 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures are expected to fall to near freezing this afternoon and into the mid-to-upper 20s tonight.

Rain will transition to freezing rain and sleet this afternoon, the NWS said. Precipitation is expected to end as snow and sleet late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

SCDOT’s construction and maintenance personnel began pre-treating major roads in the state this morning. If necessary, more than 1,100 pieces of winter-weather equipment will be moved to areas where the need is critical, the department said.

“Adjustments to the department’s snow and ice plan will be made as needed depending on the forecast and storm’s impact,” the department said in a statement. “Crews will work around the clock on 12-hour rotating shifts until the roads are clear.”

The department said Engineering District Six — including Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester and Jasper counties — has access to mounted plows and loaded materials in preparation of the storm.

Additional salt will be moved today from Columbia to District Six to supplement current supplies in the coastal counties, the department said.

Across the state, SCDOT will focus on clearing interstate routes first then primary routes, which include U.S. and S.C. designated routes. Secondary routes, such as farm and market roads, will be last on the priority list.

State of Emergency
Gov. Nikki Haley declared a State of Emergency prior to the winter storm today. The state’s Emergency Management Division activated South Carolina’s Emergency Operations Center at Operation Condition Three, according to a news release. OpCon 3 signifies that a “disaster or emergency situation is likely.”

Haley has ordered all state government offices to follow county government closing decisions.

Mayor asks citizens to stay home
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. held a news conference this morning to discuss the approaching winter storm.

He recommended citizens should stay home the next two days if possible and avoid using open flames for heat and light.

“Check on your neighbors, especially the elderly,” Riley said. “Have a plan for you and your family.”

City offices will be closed Wednesday, Riley said. But crews from the police and fire departments as well as parks and facilities will be helping SCE&G facilitate the return of electricity if necessary.

“Don’t hesitate in an emergency to call 9-1-1,” Riley said. “We have lots of staff on duty.”

Port facilities closing early
All S.C. Ports Authority facilities are scheduled to close at 3 p.m. today.

Dual missions and refers must be in by 2 p.m., and single missions must be in by 2:30 p.m., the authority said.

The Port of Georgetown and the S.C. Inland Port will continue to operate under normal business hours, the authority said.

The port facilities are scheduled to re-open at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. But if weather conditions change, the gates are subject to earlier or later opening times, the authority said.

Charleston International flights canceled
American, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest stopped flights out of Charleston International Airport at noon today. United Airlines’ final flight of the day departed at 12:09 p.m., according to airport spokeswoman Rebekah Beaman.

Flights via US Airways had not been cancelled at the time of this post, but Beaman said those flights are subject to change. The airport terminal was open as of 2:45 p.m.

“We encourage passengers to check with their airline before coming to the airport,” she said in a statement.

All airlines hope to resume operations on varying schedules beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.

Santee Cooper recruits repair help
Santee Cooper crews are preparing for upcoming shifts and potential storm-related repairs, according to a news release.

The company, which provides electricity for more than 2 million customers across the state, has contract repair and tree crews coming to the Lowcountry from Florida and Louisiana. They’ll address any needed repairs as soon as conditions are safe, the state-owned utility said.

“To help Santee Cooper meet increased demand from the cold nights ahead, customers are also asked to conserve electricity where possible — by delaying the use of dishwashers and washing machines, for example — during the peak demand times in the evening before bedtime and in the mornings before 9 a.m.,” Santee Cooper said in a statement.

School closings

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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