Freezing rain and overnight snow showers are expected to leave some Horry County residents stranded at home Thursday morning as the area begins a slow thaw from Winter Storm Grayson that closed numerous highways along the Southeast coast.
State and local road officials worked overtime to pre-treat major highways and bridges. However, multiple car crashes were reported across the Grand Strand, and drivers were warned by police to stay off the roads as the forecast called for four inches of snow to top off nearly an inch of ice.
U.S. 17 bypass was closed in all directions at U.S. 501 for nearly two hours after a six-vehicle crash just after 2 p.m. As icy conditions quickly deteriorated, emergency officials closed the U.S. 501 bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway by early afternoon, cutting off a main thoroughfare to Myrtle Beach.
Transportation officials planned to retreat roads once snow began falling Wednesday evening, but residents on secondary roads may have trouble getting out of their neighborhoods Thursday morning, especially if the snowy forecast holds.
The winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service was set to expire by 6 a.m., but with temperatures remaining below freezing, areas east of Interstate 95 hit by snow and ice can expect some cleared roads to refreeze.
Horry County schools were canceled for Thursday before the first snowflakes hit the ground, which is expected to ease traffic.
But the question is, when will temperatures reach above freezing to melt the mess?
By Sunday, says Steven Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
As the area of intense low pressure finally makes its way out of the area, it will only reinforce the arctic air-mass that has plagued the Carolinas for the last few days, Pfaff said.
As a result, temperatures will struggle to breach freezing Thursday through Saturday, with some relief from cold temperatures expected when the highs reach into the 40s on Sunday, Pfaff said.
“We expect a warm-up on Monday with highs around 60 and mid 50s Tuesday. Until that time, area residents will have to deal with a continuation of atypically cold and persistent weather,” Pfaff said.
All flights out of Myrtle Beach International Airport were canceled Wednesday, and although flights were expected to resume Thursday, airport officials urged fliers to contact the airline to confirm their individual flights.
Coast RTA halted bus service at 6 p.m. Wednesday and planned to restart service by 8 a.m. Thursday out of Conway and after 9 a.m. from Myrtle Beach, weather permitting.
Several businesses closed early Wednesday, including the Coastal Grand Mall. If weather conditions continued to deteriorate overnight as forecast, expect some businesses to remain closed on Thursday.
No power outages were reported by mid afternoon, and no emergency shelters had been opened by county officials.
Horry County government offices closed at noon Wednesday. Horry Telephone Company also closed Wednesday and anticipated a delayed opening Thursday.