COLUMBIA, S.C. — The sun came back out Thursday in South Carolina and temperatures rose above freezing, but many major highways in the eastern part of the state remained an icy mess.
The winter storm in South Carolina did cause at least one death. A man driving home from work Wednesday afternoon slid off icy Interstate 20 in Kershaw County and hit a tree, authorities said.
With the ice slow to melt, city councils in Charleston and North Charleston both declared a state of emergency Thursday. The declaration allows officials to set a curfew and restrict travel, but Charleston spokesman Jack O’Toole said it is just precaution and no curfew has been set or major problems reported.
Icy highways remained Thursday. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster authorized 20 National Guard members to use their equipment to help rescue stranded motorists on Interstate 95 and to the east and push vehicles out of the way so the roads could be reopened.
South Carolina Department of Transportation crews worked 24 hours a day in shifts to try to clear the ice and snow off roads that had not dealt with a major winter storm in eight years.
But there were so many roads covered with ice. Parts of Interstate 95 from mile marker 77 around St. George south to the Georgia state line remained closed Thursday afternoon because of icy patches. Dozens of other roads remained treacherous, according to the DOT.
Major roads less travelled were even worse. And troopers warned any water from melted ice left behind after dark would refreeze as temperatures across the state again fell below freezing.
Kershaw County Coroner David West said Arther Cumbie Jr. was driving home to Darlington from his job in Lugoff around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when witnesses saw his truck slide off I-20 just east of the Doctor Humphries Road exit around mile marker 103 and hit some trees.
Cumbie was wearing a seatbelt, but died from head injuries, West said in a statement.
The storm that moved up the Atlantic Coast was causing blizzard conditions in the Northeast on Thursday. But in South Carolina, the winds and ice caused less than 10,000 power outages, most of which were quickly fixed.
Many schools in the eastern part of the state were out Thursday and some had already decided not to reopen until Monday when a sunny weekend and more time above freezing was expected to help thaw things out.
The most snow in South Carolina was reported in Williamsburg County near Andrews with 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow. Areas around Sumter picked up 7 inches (18 centimeters). The Charleston International Airport in North Charleston had its third highest snow total since 1938 with 5.3 inches (13.5 centimeters) of snow. Even Hilton Head island received a nice dusting, reporting 1 inch (2.5 centimeters), according to the National Weather Service.