On Monday, 24 January 2000, a wet mass of air which had been producing rain in Florida moved north and collided over Georgia and South Carolina with cold air from the north. A huge surprise snowstorm swept up the East Coast and dominated weather reports for the next few days. This page shows some of the effects in South Carolina, which saw record snowfalls.
In the South Carolina piedmont region, snow is a rare event. Here in Clinton, about sixty miles south of the mountains which line the North Carolina border, we get a significant snowfall (enough to cover the ground) perhaps once every two or three years. It's more common to get freezing rain or sleet which covers everything with a layer of ice that usually melts by afternoon.
During the night of Saturday-Sunday, 22-23 January 2000, we had such an ice storm, which caused brief power outages on Sunday morning as falling tree branches snapped power lines. It stayed cold on Sunday, so the ice remained, but it didn't seem to cause further problems.
On Monday morning, I walked to work (about 0.7 miles) as usual, with a bit of caution because of the ice left on the streets from the previous day. When I arrived around 9:00 there was no sign of what was to come, except perhaps for some clouds rolling in from the west.
By the time I finished my 10:00 a.m. class (at 11:00), it had started to snow heavily, and there was already an inch or so of snow on the ground. We received word that classes had been canceled as of 12:00 noon, to give faculty and staff a chance to get home safely. Around 1:00 I decided to walk home; by this time there were perhaps three inches of snow on the ground. Trees that were still covered with ice now had a coating of snow also.
About five minutes after I got home, the electricity went out, so I put some batteries in my portable CD player and lay down on the couch for a nap. Shortly after 3:00 I woke up, saw that the power was still out, that it was still snowing, and that there was now about 4-6 inches on the ground. I grabbed my camera and started walking back to my office, taking pictures as I went.
[picture] View from the back door of my house. Notice the birch tree at left with its trunk doubled over by the weight of ice and snow.
[picture] View of my house from the street corner.
[picture] Walking down Calvert Avenue towards the college, we see a lone SUV making its way through the snow.
At the college, I found that my building still had power, and that Tuesday morning's classes had also been canceled. At about 5:00 I went home again. It was still snowing, and as I walked along I could hear (and occasionally see) tree branches snapping under the weight of snow and ice. I could see some fallen power lines, so when I got home I was not surprised that we still had no power.
Although our furnace uses gas, its controls need electricity, so we were without heat. Thanks to our electric stove, we couldn't cook either, so we ate canned tuna and crackers and homemade gazpacho by candlelight for supper. At least we still had hot water, and the phone was still working. Finally we went to bed early, wearing sweaters and piling on extra blankets.
During the evening, the snow stopped, and the next morning was crisp and sunny. I walked back to campus and took some pictures before my afternoon lab.
[picture] A fallen tree brought down a power line on Fifth Ave. on the north edge of campus.
[picture] The science hall (where my office is), with ice-covered trees and broken branches in front of it.
[picture] At the other end of campus, the West Plaza was littered with debris. A fallen tree limb had decapitated one of the streetlamps.
By this time (around noon) some of the snow and ice was starting to melt. My house regained power around 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, but some people had to do without power for a second night, or longer. Some snow was still on the ground a week and a half later. As I write this, there are still piles of branches and debris next to the streets, waiting for city crews to remove them.
The local weekly newspaper appeared a day late, with the single-word headline "Wow!" It reported that ten to twelve inches of snow had fallen in the area. Nobody around here, even the old-timers, could remember anything like it. In an interesting twist, the cities to the north of us (Greenville and Spartanburg) had gotten relatively little snow, inverting the usual situation. This caused many people to drive southward on highways I-26 and I-385 and get stuck in the blizzard. Both highways had to be closed for several hours.
This page was created on 11 February 2000.
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