COLUMBIA, S.C. — With the conditions worsening statewide Gov. Nikki Haley said the winter storm currently blasting the South Carolina is expected to be worse than the ice storm of 2004.
Haley and other state leaders spoke in a late morning press conference Wednesday at the state’s emergency operations center where they gave the press an update on conditions, response and estimates on the snow and ice snarling the state.
“The conditions look like it’s going to be worse than the storm of 2004 where we had 200,000 outages and people without power for a week, so we have certainly hunkered down,” Haley said. “Team South Carolina is hard at work and I’m incredibly proud of the work they are doing. We’re continuing to see a major snow storm in the Upstate, we're seeing snow and ice here in the Midlands and certainly a lot of wind down in the Lowcountry and the wind is really what’s causing us a lot of problems, because that’s leading to the ice build up.”
The 2004 storm caused $3.3 million in property damage in Florence County, according to county estimates.
Earlier in the day the governor sent President Barack Obama a letter requesting a federal emergency declaration as a precautionary step. Obama approved a declaration for the state of Georgia on Tuesday.
“We have gone ahead and requested a federal emergency declaration and that is really more precautionary by nature just in case we need generators, MREs, water anything to supplement what we already need,” Haley said. “It is more me just making sure we’re ahead of the curve should we need it. We have not asked for anything yet.”
If granted, the federal government will cover 75 percent of those costs for emergency items and support, with the state responsible for the remaining 25 percent.
The governor said that this is three years of practice at work now as well as lessons learned from the snow event two weeks ago.
“What we have always done, every year, it’s just been something I thought was important we do tabletops for events whether it’s a hurricane or winter storm or whatever so all of us have practiced this for three years knowing what we will do,” Haley said. “The real test came two weeks ago when we put it into place for the storm.”
The only “hiccup” from that event Haley said, was that it was the first time the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston had frozen. Crews couldn’t apply salt to the bridge since it could compromise the bridge’s structure and the bridge was later closed after falling ice caused accidents. The bridge was closed on Wednesday as a precaution.
S.C. Emergency Management Division Director Kim Stenson said no counties had requested supplies from the state yet, but as conditions worsen his team expects to be working closer with the counties.
“We’ve got a good team formed from the local all the way up to the federal level,” Stenson said. “We have planned together, trained together and exercised together so now we’re operating together so we’ll get through this.”
With freezing rain, freezing temperatures and wind expecting to bring nearly an inch of ice to power lines, trees and roads in the area, director of South Carolina Department of Public Safety Leroy Smith reiterated that people need to stay home.
“This is an extremely dangerous event,” Smith said. “We are asking the motoring public to please stay at home and stay off the roads.”