- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A winter storm that left up to 4 inches of snow on South Carolina and caused a rash of accidents and closing schools and offices has moved off the coast, but the effects will linger for a day or so.

Motorists across the state were warned to use caution as driving remained hazardous and roads covered with snow or slush were expected to refreeze amid below-freezing temperatures statewide Wednesday night.

Snow and freezing rain pelted the coast before the system moved off shore about midday. Earlier, the storm dumped as much as 4 inches of snow in the Midlands. Small craft advisories remained in effect for the state’s coastal waters.

Late Tuesday, the messy weather cut the direct links between Charleston and its eastern suburbs. The bridges linking Charleston and Mount Pleasant on Interstate 526 finally reopened Wednesday afternoon, but the eight-lane Arthur Ravenel Bridge linking the two communities on U.S. 17 remained closed.

They are among a number of bridges in the Charleston area shut down because of the storm. And the only bridges linking Hilton Head Island to the mainland were also closed for a time at midday Wednesday because of accidents on the icy spans.

The Highway Patrol responded to almost 820 collisions statewide between 4 p.m. Tuesday and 4 a.m. Wednesday and an additional 800 wrecks from 4 a.m. Wednesday to 4 p.m. Wednesday. In the same 24-hour period last year, troopers handled fewer than 300 collisions.

They were among about 3,200 weather-related problems to which troopers responded. That included around 300 vehicles abandoned on roadsides.

The Columbia area received between 2 and 3 inches of snow. The highest snowfall totals reported by the National Weather Service was about 4 inches in Sandy Run southeast of Columbia and 4 inches in Bennettsville in Marlboro County. Walterboro in Colleton County reported an inch of ice from the storm.

Utilities across the state reported about 700 customers were without power at late Wednesday, most of them near the coast which had more ice than other areas.

In the Upstate, motorists were advised to be aware of black ice on highways, a thin coating of ice that is not always immediately visible.

In Columbia, the streets were largely deserted during the morning rush hour Wednesday as packed snow and ice layered side streets. The State Transportation Department reported all interstates in South Carolina were passable but some had slush and ice in areas. The elevated sections of Interstate 526 in the Charleston area were closed because of icing.

The department said it had 665 pieces of equipment out working to keep the state’s roads open.

Schools and businesses in many areas remained closed for a second straight day and forecasters said road conditions would likely not improve significantly until temperatures rose well above freezing on Thursday

Highs were expected in the upper 50s and 60s by the weekend.

With the storm approaching, the state General Assembly earlier canceled its sessions for this week.

Story Continues →