Forecasters predict another blast of winter weather for the Myrtle Beach area

troot@thesunnews.com akelley@thesunnews.comFebruary 10, 2014 

For the second time this year, winter storm watches are in effect for inland areas of Horry and Georgetown counties, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C.

Forecasters said that by Monday afternoon a storm watch issued ahead of a series of low pressure systems could be replaced by a winter storm warning. The storm warning could come on Tuesday – about 10 a.m. for Horry County and near 7 p.m. in Georgetown County, said Steven Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist.

“A cold air-mass from arctic high pressure will be in place across the Carolinas as precipitation begins to fall late [Monday] into Tuesday morning that will be dominated by freezing rain across inland areas by late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning,” Pfaff said in a briefing Monday afternoon.

The threat of the storm had area officials working Monday to replenish salt supplies for treating roads. Schools officials said they are monitoring the conditions.

Based on models early Monday afternoon, Pfaff said the impacts to the coast are expected to be minor, but changes are possible to the forecast overnight and icy conditions can’t be ruled out for the Grand Strand.

“That freezing line will be flirting with the coastal areas,” he said. “The probability does exist for wintry-type weather, but by far most of the impacts will be inland for Horry County.”

Inland Horry County – including Conway, Loris and Aynor – could see as much as an inch of a snow-sleet mixture with up to a half inch of freezing rain on top, Pfaff said.

Accumulations in Georgetown County are expected to be lower, with one half to three-quarters of an inch of ice along with up to one-tenth of an inch of sleet.

Pfaff said power outages are possible and dangerous road conditions are likely.

The bulk of the accumulating freezing rain is expected to occur late Tuesday into Wednesday morning. Rain is expected to dominate along the coastline with some light sleet and snow, he said.

“The winter storm watches look very eerily similar to those a couple weeks ago. … Two weeks ago that core of colder air was closer to the coast,” Pfaff said. “The freezing rain accumulation is [estimated to be] in excess of a tenth of an inch over the next 72 hours.”

He said any icy conditions could linger through Thursday.

S.C. Department of Transportation sent trucks from Horry County to Columbia to replenish salt inventories. No roadways were being treated Monday.

Motorists should check road conditions this week before making their commutes.

“Any of those roads that are perpendicular to the coastline are going to see significant impact as [motorists] go away from the coast,” Pfaff said. “People traveling from the coastline, they need to ramp up their attention and monitor the conditions.”

Similar weather closed schools, government offices and some businesses in the Myrtle Beach area at the end of January.

Horry County Schools lost four days during last month’s storm, and Superintendent Cindy Elsberry said the district was anticipating that schools may close another day if the forecast for this new storm holds.

She said the call depends on the weather alerts the district receives from Horry County Emergency Management on when the bad weather will arrive. She expects to be looking at the weather early morning situation Tuesday to determine any action needed for this new wave of inclement weather.

On Jan. 29, forecasters said they had recorded half inch of snow or ice in the Myrtle Beach area, while an observer in Loris recorded 1.2 inches, according to the weather service.

The forecast for Tuesday calls for rain, with some sleet expected between 12 and 3 p.m. while temperatures hover at 38 degrees.

Temperatures overnight Tuesday will dip to freezing and the rain and sleet mix will continue into Wednesday morning. The rain will continue Wednesday with 70 percent chance and temperatures will reach 41 degrees. Up to three-quarters of an inch of rainfall is expected. Wednesday’s low will be near 35 degrees with up to a 60 percent chance of rain.

On Thursday, rain and snow are likely before 8 a.m., then sleet will continue until cloudy skies return with a high temperature near 45 degrees. The rain will end by Thursday night when the low temperature is expected to be around 34 degrees. Sunny skies will return on Friday with a high near 56 degrees.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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