Myrtle Beach area should thaw out, return to normal after icy roads caused dozens crashes

01/30/2014 1:26 PM

08/28/2014 3:42 PM

If you can get through Friday morning’s low temperatures in the Myrtle Beach area, relief is on the way with a daytime high expected to reach 50 degrees – warm enough to make all the ice a memory, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C.

After a winter storm paralyzed the region on Wednesday, forecasters predict a gradual increase of daytime highs through the weekend that could reach 60 degrees by Monday. But rain also is in that forecast.

Light precipitation developed along the coast Thursday afternoon, prompting a freezing rain advisory that complicated the thawing of roadways in Horry County, said Steven Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS.

“This precipitation will enable the temperatures to drop in some areas [Thursday] afternoon and a few pockets of a light freezing rain or freezing drizzle are possible,” he said. “We also can’t rule out some light flurries or light sleet given we are still in this Arctic air-mass.”

No significant accumulations are expected, Pfaff said, but he noted it wouldn’t help the dangerous road conditions.

Most government offices and many businesses had reopened by noon on Thursday, but public schools and Horry-Georgetown Technical College remained closed. Coastal Carolina University opened at 10 a.m. Thursday. CCU and HGTC will resume regular operations starting at 8 a.m. on Friday.

Students at Horry County Schools won’t return to class until Monday, although some district and school employees will report to work Friday. Students in the Georgetown County School District will return to school Friday on a two-hour delay, with a one-hour delay for employees.

Most of the Grand Strand’s roads were covered with ice from Tuesday evening through Thursday because of a storm that struck the area Tuesday. Those same conditions were expected Friday morning after any wet areas refroze overnight, according to authorities.

Police warned that if you have to drive early Friday to be cautious for any icy conditions, especially on bridges and overpasses where black ice can form.

Cpl. Sonny Collins with the S.C. Highway Patrol said residents should stay home off the icy roads if possible to avoid any dangerous conditions early Friday.

Grand Strand Regional Medical Center saw the number of visits to its emergency department drop during the storm Tuesday and on Wednesday, but the hospital was beginning to see a return to its normal pace on Thursday, said Joan Carroza, hospital spokeswoman.

The emergency department treated people who fell or slipped on ice and were victims of automobile accidents Thursday. In addition, she said that some patients who should have sought care for illnesses Tuesday or Wednesday waited until Thursday to go to the hospital, and therefore were sicker than they would have been if they’d gone earlier.

Carroza said the emergency department typically treats about 140 patients a day. On Tuesday, it saw just 80 patients, which climbed to 100 on Wednesday.

The pace was moving toward normal Thursday afternoon, she said.

Several roads dried out by Thursday but, some with slushy conditions refroze overnight Wednesday and caused dozens of crashes on Thursday, according to police.

The closures included the Little River Swing Bridge, the on ramps at S.C. 31 and Main Street Connector in North Myrtle Beach, portions of S.C. 319, S.C. 9 near Loris and a couple other secondary roads.

Highway patrol officials in Columbia said that as of noon Thursday troopers had answered 3,536 calls for service that included 1,799 crashes, 368 abandoned vehicles and assisted 853 motorists in the state.

Several crashes also occurred in the city of Conway, where police Lt. Selena Small said patches of ice remained on several roads. Public works crews applied sand to streets where icy conditions were reported, and she said residents can alert them about ice on roads at 248-1790.

The state’s operations returned to normal on Thursday after Gov. Nikki Haley rescinded an order for a State of Emergency, which was issued at the start of the winter storm, said Derrec Becker, spokesman for the S.C. Emergency Management Division.

Horry County officials closed their Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday, but delayed opening county offices until noon that day and again on Thursday. Operations are expected to be back to normal on Friday.

Staff writer Steve Jones contributed to this report.

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