COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Midlands of South Carolina could see ice, sleet, rain, and gusty winds Sunday, a setup that could lead to road hazards and power outages across some parts of the region.
An ice storm warning is in effect for the northern Midlands Sunday. A winter weather advisory is in effect for most of the central and southern Midlands Sunday.
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The National Weather Service issued warnings and advisories for the Midlands Friday, this in advance of a winter storm that is expected to impact the area Sunday.
The ice storm warning includes the following counties: Fairfield, Newberry, and Kershaw counties. It begins late Saturday night. The warning means those areas could see anywhere from a quarter of an inch to 0.5 inches of ice.
Power outages and tree damage are likely due to the ice. Travel could be nearly impossible at times. Strong wind gusts Sunday morning may put additional strain on trees and powerlines.
Travel is strongly discouraged. If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency. Prepare for possible power outages.
Most of the central and southern Midlands are under a winter weather advisory. This advisory includes Saluda, Lexington, Richland, Sumter, Lee, Aiken, Calhoun, Clarendon, and parts of Orangeburg counties. Southeastern Orangeburg County is not included in this advisory.
These areas could see up to two-tenths of an inches of ice as well as some sleet.
Rain will move into the Midlands after midnight and into the morning hours on Sunday. Temperatures will drop near or below freezing which will turn rain into sleet in spots and produce significant ice accretions on power lines, trees, and roads in areas where temperatures remain below freezing.
The greatest risk for wintry weather on Sunday will be north and west of I-20 toward Saluda, Newberry, Fairfield, and parts of Kershaw counties. Several hours of wintry precipitation are expected. Rain will freeze on contact with roads, powerlines, and trees and could result in power outages and dangerous travel. Temperatures will hover in the upper 20s or low 30s but wind gusts up to 30 mph will drop wind chills to near 10F on Sunday morning. Wind gusts could also increase the risk for power outages.
The greatest risk for wintry weather will be on Sunday morning from 3 AM into noon time. Near the afternoon, temperatures may be warm enough to transition precipitation to all rain, but on the back end of the storm there is a possibility for few stray snowflakes.
A period of wintry weather is possible for parts of Kershaw, Richland, Lexington, Lee, Sumter, Calhoun, and Aiken Counties. The primary precipitation will be rain, but temperatures in the morning will likely be cold enough for rain to freeze on contact and create slippery spots. Winds will gust up to 30 mph. With temperatures near freezing, wind chills will likely drop as low as 15F on Sunday morning.
The greatest risk for wintry weather will be early Sunday morning after 3am and into the mid-morning. Some transition to all rain is expected in the afternoon with a few stray snowflakes in the evening possible.
Heavy and cold rain is expected to develop through Sunday morning. Localized flooding is possible, and wind gusts could reach over 30 mph. Temperatures will be near freezing so a period of icy conditions are possible, but the late morning and afternoon should be warm enough to limit icing impacts along the I-95 corridor and areas eastward.
There is still uncertainty about the extent of the ice threat Sunday morning because of inconsistencies between models regarding the spread of below freezing temperatures. With warm air higher up, it will be difficult to get snow in the Midlands, but temperatures could be near or below freezing near the ground across the Midlands. This will result in icy conditions in the form of freezing rain or sleet instead of snow. Freezing rain falls like typical raindrops but these drops freeze on contact with any surface that is below freezing.
With multiple scenarios still on the table, it is important to keep a close eye on the forecast, especially for areas north of I-20. Wintry weather is not expected closer to the I-95, so confidence is higher for a mostly rain event in the southern Midlands.
The GFS and European models are considered lower resolution and therefore are not always able to predict the subtle nuances of our region, like cold air damming, which could keep below freezing temperatures in a larger portion of the region.
Higher resolution model data is more in line with the idea that cold air remains in place for the northern Midlands and produces a risk for slippery conditions which gives us higher confidence that there will be a period of dangerous travel weather on Sunday morning toward the I-20 corridor and northward
Leftover moisture Monday morning may produce some hazardous road conditions. Black ice may be an issue early Monday, but since it is a holiday, many people will be off from work and school.