UNION COUNTY — The schools were closed and other local institutions sent their staffs home early as road crews worked to prepare county roads in the face of a winter storm system expected to bring as much 9 inches of snow to some areas of the county.
Rain gave way to snow in Union County as the first round of winter precipitation got under way Tuesday morning. The snow continued to fall throughout the day covering fields, lawns, trees, buildings, and parked cars with a increasingly thick winter blanket of white.
The forecast issued by the National Weather Service in Greer stated that the thickness of that blanket would as much as three inches by Tuesday evening. That, however, would only be the beginning of the storm which would not only bring more snow, but also sleet and ice today.
Larry Gabric, a meteorologist with the NWS in Greer, said that while the snow will taper off later Tuesday afternoon and that evening, it would redevelop today and cause the heaviest snowfall associated with the storm. Gabric said the snowfall would vary depending on the area, with the lower half of the county receiving 6 1/2 inches of snow and the northern half as much as 9 inches.
In addition to more snow, Gabric said the county would also see sleet and freezing rain, though this will mainly be south of Union.
Gabric said the temperatures would remain in the low- to mid-30s for the rest of Tuesday before falling into the upper 20s that night. He said today’s temperatures would reach a high of 28-30 degrees with lows in the upper 20s tonight.
Even though the snow did not begin falling until Tuesday morning, the threat of snow and ice lead Union County School District Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall to announce Monday evening the schools would be closed Tuesday.
Woodall announced late Tuesday afternoon that schools would remain closed Wednesday.
Other local institutions began following suit Tuesday morning including USC Union which canceled classes and then sent its staff home at 10 a.m. Early Tuesday evening, USC Union Dean Dr. Alice Taylor-Colbert announced that the campus would be closed Wednesday as well and all classes canceled due to the weather.
Like USC Union, the Union County Advanced Technology Center opened its doors in the morning only to cancel classes and sends its staff home at 11 a.m.
The Union County Courthouse was open Tuesday morning, but Supervisor Tommy Sinclair said this was mainly to ensure all systems and information were secure in the face of any possible storm-related disruptions.
“We may close early,” Sinclair said as the day got under way. “We’re bringing people in to be prepared for a possible two-day shutdown. We want to make sure all information is saved and systems shut down properly. We’re trying to coordinate our activities with the city.”
A short time later, Union County Clerk of Court Freddie Gault announced that the courthouse was closing at noon.
In addition to closing the courthouse, Sinclair said that the Union County Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday afternoon had been canceled.
The City of Union Municipal Building was also open Tuesday morning and Mayor Harold Thompson said the city was closely monitoring the situation, particularly where it related to its utility system.
“Our concern is mainly for later today should ice develop,” Thompson said. “We’re especially concerned with our power lines, however, while we are concerned we are confident that our cutting tree limbs away from the lines last year will ensure that any disruptions are minimized.”
Thompson later announced that the municipal building would be closed today. He said there would be a few employees on-site to answer calls, but that the building would be closed to the general public.
In addition to the schools, USC Union, the UCATC, and the courthouse, a number of other local agencies, organizations, and churches announced early closings and/or the cancellation of activities in light of the storm.
While the snow had steadily covered the ground, trees, buildings, and parked automobiles, it had not began sticking to the roads which remained clear for traffic.
Road crews with the Union County Public Works Department were hard at work trying to keep it that way throughout the day spreading liquid salt and salt crystals, particularly in the areas of Wallace Thomson Hospital, nursing homes, 911 and other emergency response organizations, and area bridges.
When a “polar vortex” brought single-digit temperatures to Union County in early January, the county opened an emergency shelter in the Union County Recreation Department for people who found themselves without heat.
Sinclair announced Tuesday morning that because of this new winter storm the county was again opening the recreation department as an emergency shelter. He said anyone who find themselves without heat and in need of emergency shelter should call 911.
The recreation department will be able to accommodate up to 60 people under a worst case scenario. There will be mats to sleep on and some basic foods as well as coffee.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, Ext. 14.