Get your cozy socks ready, Sumter. It's about to get cold. Freezing cold.
It's still too early for meteorologists to predict amounts of rain, snow and/or ice, but they're confident a winter storm will make its way across South Carolina this weekend and bring impacts to Sumter and the Midlands.
The storm will roll through after midnight Saturday night, when the low is forecast around 30 degrees, and continue into Sunday morning and afternoon. After climbing to about 40 on Sunday, temperatures will likely fall back below freezing. Monday's MLK Day holiday should be a sunny and chilly 45.
That won't be the coldest of the season so far. Tuesday night saw temperatures drop to as low as 17 degrees in some Midlands areas, according to the National Weather Service Columbia office. NWS weather recording devices in Pinewood and at the Sumter airport registered a low of 21.
What form the precipitation will take once it reaches us is yet to become certain. Just a degree or two change is the difference between snow, sleet and freezing rain, between picturesque flakes, droplets that freeze and become ice on the way down and rain that freezes upon contact with a surface.
Chris Rohrbach, a Columbia-based NWS meteorologist, said the main concerns with getting more ice than snow - the most likely scenario - are power outages and hazardous travel conditions.
"We do have the potential to see significant icing," he said.
The last time Sumter saw snow was January 2018. Rohrbach said the area received "a few inches."
According to the National Weather Service's Columbia office, Sumter received .6 inch of ice on Feb. 13, 2014, with dispatch reporting "many trees and powerlines down," while Clarendon County saw 1 inch of ice during that storm and Lee County .3 inch.
Rohrbach said the NWS Columbia office is promoting preparation in the form of supply kits. They say to have three days of water and food as well as cellphone chargers, flashlights, batteries and any necessary medicines and products that can be used or consumed without the use of power. Keep pets indoors, and take precautions to keep pipes from freezing.
South Carolina Highway Patrol Master Trooper David Jones urged caution on roadways when there is ice on the ground.
"As the weather worsens, collisions increase," he said, "and speed usually plays a part in those collisions."
Black ice, a thin coating of highly transparent ice, can lead to dangerous driving conditions.
"Even if it's just raining, motorists need to reduce their speed," Jones said.
He suggested completing a vehicle safety checklist before the winter weather arrives. Check the tire pressure and condition of the tires. Make sure the windshield wipers are working properly. Keep a blanket, snacks, flashlight, cellphone charger and other safety items in the vehicle in case you get stranded on the roadway.
The best way to stay safe is to stay off the road until conditions improve.
For those who do stay off the road, heaters make the home cozy. But there are still risks.
Lt. April Conyers, public information and education officer for Clarendon County Fire Rescue, said heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes; one in every seven home fires and one in every five home fire deaths involves heating equipment. Space heaters account for a majority of injuries and deaths in home heating fires, she said. Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
Here are some tips for staying safe:
Portable heating safety:
Home heating safety:
Carbon monoxide safety:
WINTER SHELTER PREPARING FOR EXTRA GUESTS
As officials ask residents to prepare their homes, not everyone has that luxury.
To help those without homes or heat, Daphney Scarborough gets busy when it gets cold - really cold. She runs Sumter United Ministries' winter shelter, which opens from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. when the forecast dips below 40. Since a two-week heat wave, they've been open for 14 days in a row.
She said they've been preparing to find coverage for security and staffing to accommodate the area's transient community and those who don't have heat in their homes this weekend.
The shelter has been averaging 15 guests a night this winter, its second in operation. They have capacity for 30.
She said neighborhood partners have been diligent in volunteering to bring and serve food each night, but they do need nonperishable breakfast items such as bars, fruit cups, granola bars, crackers and bottled water.
People can drop off water and nonperishable food items at 36 S. Artillery Drive Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
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