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County, city, school district weather winter storm

Posted: January 11, 2011 3:03 p.m.
Updated: January 12, 2011 5:00 a.m.
Maria Spring/C-I

Lenny Lindsay, the dashing duck of Mac, Patrick and Mary Dawson Lindsay of Camden, could be seen roaming around his white front yard Monday on Mill Street. Lenny’s grandpa, Nelson, said the duck had a splendid time trudging through the snow.

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Five inches of snow had fallen in Lugoff by 10 a.m. Monday; 4 in Camden.

By then, the Kershaw County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) had been open for six hours, according to EOC Public Information Officer Dennis Ray.

“The snow is now turning to a mix of snow and freezing rain on U.S. 1 in Cassatt while we are still receiving steady snowfall in Lugoff,” Ray said at the time. “We are expecting 5 to 8 inches of snow total with .10 to .25 inches of ice accumulation this afternoon into tonight. We expect some power outages, but most of the ice damage will be below us in the more southern counties.”

Ray, who is also chief of the Lugoff Fire Department, said the S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) -- with help from Kershaw County Public Works -- was already working on bridges, overpasses and I-20. There had already been some accidents at that point.

“We … had several minor vehicle crashes throughout the county; mostly run-off-the-road issues,” said Ray.

Around the same time, Sheriff Jim Matthews was on patrol in Bethune.

“It’s not bad,” Matthews said of traffic. “It seems like people are taking the advice to drive carefully. We’ve had a few accidents, but nothing serious.”

Matthews said Bethune was already experiencing a thick mix of snow and sleet. That fit with what Ray was saying at the time.

“We’ve been very fortunate … compared to counties to the south which already have the mix,” said Ray.

Normally, Ray said, mixtures of snow and sleet start in the northern part of the state and work their way south. This time, the mixtures swirled northward, following bands of wet snow.

“We got snow first, but when it switches to the mix, that’s where the real problem’s going to be,” he said.

The snow began to fall heavily late Monday morning.

“It feels like I’m on the losing end of a snowball fight,” one deputy was heard saying on police band radio.

Long before one snowflake fell, the prediction of snow and ice led the Kershaw County School District (KCSD), city of Camden and Kershaw County to make the decision to shut down all schools and offices.

Students already had the day off as a records day -- as they did Tuesday when the KCSD, Kershaw County and Camden again decided to give teachers, administrators and government employees the day off. The primary motivation, all three entities’ representatives said: to keep people safe at home and off icy streets.

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, DOT reported that all of I-20 in Kershaw County had two lanes open in each direction, with crews focusing on snow removal from primary and high traffic secondary roads as needed. Ray said that DOT and the county public works department had scraped I-20 and U.S. routes 1, 521 and 601.

“Though still icy, these roadways are passable,” Ray said Tuesday morning. “Secondary roads still remain very hazardous with snow and ice accumulated on top of the roadway, resulting in very poor driving conditions. Drivers are still warned to avoid traveling on the roadways if at all possible.”

Tuesday morning, Matthews said the most serious accident involved a jackknifed tractor-trailer on S.C. 341 between Bethune and the Lee County line.

“We shut down the road for a couple of hours until a wrecker could show up from Pageland,” he said.

Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd said things went fairly smoothly in the city.

“We had a few cars slide off the road and get stuck. We did a good number of escorts getting medical personnel to work. I’m very happy to know that we only had one serious accident,” said Floyd.

He said a car ran off the road on a side street off Dicey Creek Road and Lyttleton Street. Floyd said the car ended up on its side. A male passenger was taken to the hospital, but Floyd said he did not appear to have been seriously injured.

“It’s slowly starting to move again,” said Floyd of Camden traffic. “I think a lot of it (the low number of accidents) had a lot to do with people staying off the roads. Camden’s been fortunate.”

Ray said most accidents in Kershaw County involved people sliding off the roadway.

Ray also said power outages were reported in Elgin and the city of Camden throughout the night, but that power had already been restored.

“These were very isolated areas in Elgin and Camden … both areas were tress that had fallen on power lines,” said Ray.

With subfreezing temperatures, Ray said, the EOC was planning to continue operations through the day Tuesday.

Outgoing Gov. Mark Sanford declared a state of emergency Monday, allowing state agencies to quickly respond to citizens’ needs by reassigning personnel and deploying vehicles and equipment to incident sites.

KCSD ‘records days’

Kershaw County students would have enjoyed a couple of days off regardless of the weather. Students weren’t scheduled to attend classes Monday or Tuesday, said KCSD Communications Director Mary Anne Byrd, because they were previously scheduled as “records days” on the district’s calendar. Records days are days for teachers to work in the classrooms without students.

“In this case, these two records days are placed between semesters to provide time needed at the high schools to deal with closing out grades and schedules for one semester, and starting up another,” Byrd said.

The snow and ice did, however, lead KCSD officials to close schools and offices to all employees both days. At press time Tuesday, no decision had been made as to whether or not schools would open for students today.

KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan expressed concern about the condition of walkways and parking lots and the fact that 70 percent of the roads traveled on bus routes haven’t been “touched.” He said he was concerned the roads could refreeze Tuesday night.

Byrd said no decisions have been made about whether Monday and Tuesday’s closings would affect report card schedules.

“That’s something that will have to be discussed,” she said. 

Because all extracurricular activities, athletic events, and school and district-related meetings were canceled Tuesday, a Kershaw County Board of School Trustees meeting was rescheduled from Tuesday to 10 a.m. Thursday. 

The meeting will take place in the school district’s office board room, 1301 DuBose Court, Camden.

Byrd said the school district will continue to use its automated telephone system, the district website at and local media to keep the public informed.

DOT, SCHP respond

Locally, 40 DOT employees worked in two shifts to keep the roads clear for light traffic, according to Tommy Hammond, resident maintenance engineer with the local (DOT) office. Hammond said he and his crew first went out around 3 a.m. Monday morning.

“We’ve been pushing snow since the morning, and we’ll be working through the night,” Hammond said Monday.

The main focus was I-20, U.S. routes 1 and 521, and S.C. 341 in Bethune, Hammond said.

Fortunately, said Joseph Robinson with the S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP), people stayed home and off the roads.

“We don’t want people out if they don’t have to be out,” Robinson said Monday. “We have all our crews out and working. We will be in emergency mode at least through tonight.”

A DOT update Tuesday morning said the department had approximately 1,300 maintenance employees actively involved in road operations. Approximately 19,700 tons of salt had been used statewide, and more than 700 equipment items were in use, including snow plows, salt spreaders, sprayers and graders.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, there were no “major” incidents reported, but ice and black ice was expected to be a problem through Wednesday morning, according to DOT.

Both Robinson and Hammond said they hadn’t seen any serious collisions by afternoon Monday.

“Things have been smooth. It’s kind of been surprising,” Hammond said.

According to a press release sent out Tuesday morning by the S.C. Emergency Management Division, SCHP troopers had responded to 2,610 incidents statewide, and continued to be augmented by S.C. Law Enforcement Division and Department of Natural Resources personnel. Also, 142 S.C. National Guard soldiers had been placed on active duty, operating as recovery vehicle teams supporting traffic response activities and providing transportation support for local first responders.

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