FLORENCE, S.C. -- The Pee Dee is going to get hit with multiple blasts of winter weather Tuesday and Wednesday -- that much National Weather Service forecasters were highly certain of by Monday.
The storm system was upgraded to a winter storm warning by 4:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, however the types of precipitation and when and where they will fall are less certain.
"It is going to be a mess across our forecast area over the next day and a half or so, or at least through Wednesday anyway," Steve Pfaff, warning coordinating meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, NC, said during a Monday afternoon conference call.
Pfaff said the storm two weeks ago at the end of January was much easier to forecast.
"Never thought I'd say that," he said. "We're going to have a series of different rounds of winter weather precipitation and those are the issues our staff is fighting with now to try to determine when the different elements are going to start, when the most freezing rain is going to occur."
The change in forecast from Monday morning to Monday afternoon sees areas around Florence and northern Florence County -- and points north and west of -- change from what was initially to have been an ice storm to what could be two-inches of snow that will likely be capped with a half inch of ice.
"The snow sleet part of it, most will be tomorrow during the day. Most of the freezing rain, what we feel will occur, will be late Tuesday night and especially Wednesday morning," Pfaff said.
"There will be multiple rounds of accumulation dominated by different precipitation types. The confidence level is high that we will have a significant icing event, especially away from the coast, that could cause some extreme damage to power (and take) tree limbs down," Pfaff said.
Florence City Manager Drew Griffin said that ice accumulation is the most worrisome for the city and that the city's crews are making sure all their equipment is functional and operational in the event of heavy ice.
“Anytime it goes from a quarter of inch and up we start getting slightly nervous,” Griffin said. “A quarter of an inch or below that’s just kind of rain, but if we get ice to the degree that they’re talking about it can be pretty substantial. And that can provide a lot of problems.”
Pfaff said that residents could expect major impacts from Darlington, Hartsville and Bennettsville, all the way to Lumberton and Tar Heel.
"You would see a little bit more snow on the ground followed by a quarter inch to a half inch of freezing rain," he said of a current line that marks the border where areas south of the line will see more ice and areas north of the line will see more snow.
One of the greatest effects from the storm could be widespread power outages, Pfaff said. The half-inch of ice forecast to fall across the area would be sufficient to bring down power lines and tree limbs.
The storm is also expected to adversely affect flight operations at Florence Regional Airport and Lumberton Municipal Airport, Pfaff said.
"I feel your pain with some of the decisions y'all are going to have to make on school closings," Pfaff said in reaction to several county-specific questions asked during the conference call.
Within 10 minutes of the call's end Dillon School Dist. 3 announced no school Tuesday or Wednesday. Florence County School Districts 1 and 5 announced early dismissal shortly afterward.
The storm will likely start early Tuesday morning and could be over by Wednesday afternoon.
"We will see our temperatures increase during the day Wednesday" and that could change the falling precipitation to rain that could help wash away ice, snow and sleet.
A pocket of winter weather, though, could hang on across Marlboro and Robeson (NC) Counties and some pockets could linger into Thursday morning, Pfaff said.
Pfaff gave a county-by-county breakdown of what to expect based on the 2 p.m. forecast update.
DARLINGTON COUNTY: Tuesday the southern half may get up to two inches of snow, your northern half a little higher. You'll see freezing rain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. "You're still in a healthy mix, but a dangerous mix," Pfaff said.
FLORENCE COUNTY: Light accumulation snow and sleet late Tuesday morning into afternoon. Southern Florence County will be really impacted Tuesday night into Wednesday morning and it will primarily be freezing rain in the lower part of the county and then a healthy mix (snow and freezing rain) in the northern area across Florence and northern Florence County.
"Due to current surface temperatures of roads and bridges roads are expected to remain passible and in good condition until early Tuesday evening. Temperatures will fall and freezing rain will begin Tuesday evening continuing through Wednesday," Kristy Hughes, natural hazards coordinator with the Florence County Emergency Management Division, said through a release issued Monday afternoon.
WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY: "I could see even more of your county being included in that major impact area, especially if things do initialize a little bit colder. But you are going to be in that transition zone from southeast to northeast. The bulk of resources will be needed in the northern two thirds (of Williamsburg County)," Pfaff said.
MARION COUNTY: Late morning accumulations will start, especially in the afternoon with the snow and sleet and freezing rain in Briton's Neck. Northern parts of Marion County will get more snow, central parts of the county will get more freezing rain.
DILLON COUNTY: Light if anything Tuesday morning, then by late morning and afternoon up to two plus, three or four inches of snow in the northern part into eastern Marlboro County. The county will get freezing rain and snow Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
MARLBORO COUNTY: In the early part of Tuesday morning there will be light precipitation around but as the morning progresses you're going to see better chances of sleet and snow and then getting into additional snow, sleet and freezing rain late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.