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'Dodged the worst of it': Saluda County looks toward black ice as bulk of winter storm passes

Saluda County emergency crews say they've fared well, despite communities just north of them experiencing greater impacts from the weekend storm.

SALUDA COUNTY, S.C. — Rain puddled outside Saluda County Emergency Medical Services' (EMS) headquarters Sunday afternoon, but not much else.

It was a positive sign, after a weekend of preparation for the day's winter storm.

"We fueled up all our generators, fueled up all our trucks," EMS Capt. Scotty Carroll said, "brought on an extra truck (ambulance) in case it got really bad and we needed the extra man power."

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Both Saluda County EMS and Fire officials said they've fared well, despite many of the communities just north of them, like Newberry, experiencing greater impacts from the weekends winter storm.

"We’ve really dodged the worst of it, I think," Emergency Management Director Josh Morton said. "We did have a couple of trees down early this morning. We did see some ice starting to accumulate on the tops of trees and along a few power lines. At the height of it, I believe we had maybe two or three hundred power outages at the most at one point and time. Right now, I think we’ve pretty much got most everybody back with power on.”

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The recovery was swift, he says, despite pandemic-era staffing issues, a problem seen across the country, as COVID-19 cases reach record highs.

"If you call 911, if there’s an emergency absolutely call us, but make sure that it is an emergency," Morton said. "Especially right now, with the COVID situation, you know, we’re short staffed just like everybody else and so we want to make sure that our emergency resources are available to respond to emergencies.”

Overnight, he says they'll be focusing on the potential for black ice with temperatures expected to drop.

"There is the potential for refreezing," Morton said.. "There's always the potential that some tree limbs could still come down, power lines could still come down so, just being mindful of those things."

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Capt. Carroll says the best thing to do is to avoid the roadways, if you can.

"If you have to travel, just be safe," Carroll said. "Slow down. Give yourself plenty of time to stop, and, if you have an emergency, call 911 and we'll be there."

In the event of a power outage, Morton said, call the appropriate power company rather than 911, as they are the best resource to help.