Frozen Carolina: Could be days before thaw comes

Source: SCDOT
Source: SCDOT

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It could be days before icy, treacherous conditions improve for areas of the South hit by a wintry blast that sent cars sliding off roads, emptied grocery shelves and had officials nervously watching ice-laden power lines and tree limbs.

Snow ranging from several inches to more than a foot has blanketed states from Louisiana to the Carolinas - a region where many cities have only a handful of snow plows, if any. And more misery is on the way: The snow turning to freezing rain in the Midlands Monday afternoon, and low temperatures threatened to turn roads that may have thawed icy overnight.

Transportation Department spokesman Pete Poore says the interstate system is in fair condition, but there are concerns about ice on the roads.

The threat of power outages because of freezing rain weighing down trees and power lines had many Midlanders worried as they went to bed Monday night.  SCE&G is reporting fewer than 1,200 outages statewide and fewer than 350 in the Midlands.  Click here to view SCE&G's outage map.

More than 11,000 residents had no electric service Tuesday morning. Progress Energy reported the biggest problems from Cheraw to Lake City and Sumter, with more than 7,600 customers without service.

Among the state's electric cooperatives, no problems are being reported Tuesday morning, according to spokesperson Van O'Cain. "Yesterday, our biggest problems were in the extreme Southern Midlands," says O'Cain. "It appears we dodged a bullet on this one."

The system that brought all of the snow and freezing rain has exited the area. Meteorologist Ben Tanner says the freezing rain was all but gone Tuesday morning. Temperatures will climb above freezing by mid-morning and the ice and snow should start to melt in most areas. 
Click here for the latest forecast.

Overall, the interstate system is in fair condition, however, DOT officials are concerned about black ice for the remainder of the morning. As of 4:00 a.m., interstates were open with at least two lanes clear in each direction.

Crews are working to clear snow and are treating black ice on interstates with deicing chemicals to capacity. Officials say black ice will be a problem into the morning daylight hours especially from I-20 northward.

Temperatures will rise to around 38 degrees in the Midlands and the sun will peak through the clouds Tuesday afternoon, but it won't be enough to melt all of the snow and ice still on road surfaces, especially on secondary roads. Officials expect travel to be impacted throughout the state overnight into Wednesday. Icing is expected to be a problem especially in the northern Midlands. Authorities urge motorists to only drive as absolutely needed or in an emergency.

The storm shut down most cities, closed many businesses and canceled most flights at Atlanta's airport, the world's busiest. At least nine people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents.

Related story:

Haley postpones pre-inaugural event

Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.