The second winter storm this year is expected to hit inland areas with another bout of ice while the Grand Strand should primarily see rain, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C.
A first round of wet weather swept through the area Tuesday with minimal impacts to Horry and Georgetown counties, said Steven Pfaff, a meteorologist with the NWS. But the worst is expected early Wednesday morning, with officials urging drivers to be careful on the roads, power companies watching for ice accumulations that could cause outages and emergency officials on alert.
Horry and Georgetown County Schools will be closed Wednesday. In Horry County, all 12-month employees should report to work at normal times unless weather conditions prevent traveling. Also on Wednesday, all three campuses of Horry Georgetown Technical College will be closed and Coastal Carolina University will open at noon.
“We’re not expecting significant accumulation Tuesday night, but that transitions us into stage two as an area of lower pressure moves ... into the Carolinas and intensifies,” Pfaff said Tuesday afternoon. “That will throw moisture back into this cold air so we do expect a round of significant freezing rain.
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“Part two is going to be a freezing rain monster, putting it nicely.”
Snow and heavy ice were forecasted for inland counties, but along the coast in Horry and Georgetown counties the prediction for accumulation varied depending on the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean.
Little to no snow or sleet accumulation is expected in the Myrtle Beach area and closest to the ocean, but residents living farther inland in communities such as Conway, Aynor and Loris, should be prepared for sleet and freezing rain, forecasters said.
Conway saw its first bout of freezing rain Tuesday afternoon when temperatures dropped to 32 degrees about 3 p.m., Pfaff said. Temperatures in Myrtle Beach continued to flirt with freezing but sat at 34 degrees at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Up to a half inch of ice is possible in western Horry and Georgetown counties, Pfaff said, but less than a tenth of an inch is expected along the coast of the Grand Strand. As for snow, less than an inch is expected in the far western parts of Horry County.
Freezing rain or sleet in the Myrtle Beach area should switch back to rain by noon Wednesday and by mid-afternoon inland. Rain will likely continue through Thursday morning.
Seasonal temperatures will return by the end of the week, but black ice is possible in the evening hours Thursday and Friday.
“It is going to be a miserable mix of weather across our area,” Pfaff said. “Some areas are seeing rain, but where it’s flirting with 32 degrees, those places with elevated surfaces are going to shift first to ice, sleet or snow.”
A winter storm warning will remain in effect until 7 a.m. Thursday and a winter weather advisory is in effect from 1 a.m. Wednesday to 12 p.m. Wednesday.
State emergency management officials increased their operations to respond to potential disaster and emergency situations and Gov. Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency for South Carolina at midday Tuesday. Horry County followed suit, putting employees on alert to respond by moving to operation condition (OPCON) 4.
Randy Webster, Horry County’s emergency management director, said residents and visitors should be prepared with emergency supplies such as a working flashlight, non-perishable food and water, extra medicine, baby items and first-aid supplies.
Pfaff said the storm has the potential to be “a historic icing event rivaling the 2004 event for our area,” particularly in the Pee Dee.
Forecasters warned that even though more ice is expected throughout inland Horry County, driving conditions across the entire area could be dangerous and motorists should use caution.
During the storm, officials asked residents to not drive unless necessary to keep road hazards to a minimum. Shelters will be opened if deemed necessary.
Road dangers are expected once the freezing rain begins and persists into Thursday morning, forecasters said.
“The population is not used to having this type of situation evolve,” Pfaff said. “There will be significant snow as people travel northward in addition to the icing.”
State road crews also are checking highway conditions and are prepared to salt and treat roads.
Widespread power outages remain a concern but will depend on how much ice accumulates on the lines and tree limbs. Travelers planning to fly at Myrtle Beach International Airport
should check their flight status before arriving at the airport.