Thursday was South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Billy Elder’s first day back on duty after an extended period of leave.
“I picked a great day to come back,” he kidded.
Union County and the surrounding region was under a winter weather advisory from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Thursday with a dusting of snow, some sleet or freezing rain possible during the advisory period.
Elder reported — before pulling up to cover an accident in Cherokee County himself — the weather created several locations of hazardous roadway for Thursday morning commuters.
He added the winter precipitation created a blanket effect across the region. Normally, conditions are worse in the northern portions of the Upstate, Elder said, but because of the amount of traffic on the region’s roadways Thursday morning while the brunt of winter precipitation was falling it created issues across the entire area.
Elder reported accidents on several Union County roadways, including Bogan Road, Pump Station Road, SC 49 in the Cross Keys area, Jonesville-Lockhart Highway and Old Buncombe Road.
“This has been a reversal of roles,” the trooper said, adding usually his department is called more to the Gaffney area during hazardous winter weather but Union County got more attention this time around.
There were so many incidents to cover Elder said the state patrol needed to call in local law enforcement to assist, including those from Union County.
Outside of the possibility of a refreeze overnight, however, Union County — along with much of the region — saw mostly rain Thursday. There were portions of the Upstate, however, that had it worse.
Forecasters were even warning of the potential for slick roads Friday morning because temperatures were expected to drop through the night in the Upstate, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The AP also reported Thursday’s winter weather caused hundreds of wrecks — but no reported fatalities — in the northern areas of the state. The National Weather Service issued another winter weather advisory until 9 a.m. today for the Anderson, Greenville, Spartanburg, Gaffney and Rock Hill areas.
Elder reminded motorists with the first day of winter right around the corner it’s time to revisit what to do if you have to drive in hazardous weather.
“We want to remind drivers to slow down,” he said.
Elder added it’s also good to allow yourself extra time to get to your destination if you are driving in potentially hazardous winter conditions. He also reminded motorists that bridges and overpasses are particularly dangerous when it comes to winter weather as they freeze and become slick before the rest of the roadway.
The weather in Union County and the rest of the Upstate, as of late, has been somewhat of a contradiction to what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is projecting for this winter.
Temperatures have been cool or just plain cold for much of the last several weeks but according to the CPC winter outlook released toward the end of October the Southeast — including South Carolina — should expect warmer and drier conditions throughout the upcoming winter.
The reason: La Nina.
La Nina is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. This weather phenomenon is the opposite of El Nino which is associated with warmer than usual water temperatures in the same area.
While La Nina is the opposite of El Nino — which was responsible for record-breaking rain and snowfall last winter — it also has the potential to bring weather extremes to parts of the United States.
“La Nina is in place and will strengthen and persist through the winter months, giving us a better understanding of what to expect between December and February,” said deputy director of the CPC Mike Halpert in the agency’s winter outlook.
Other factors also will play a role in winter weather — at times — throughout the country.
“Some of these factors, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, are difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance,” Halpert said.
The outlook for winter in the Southeast calls for warmer and drier than average conditions from December to February.
“This will likely exacerbate drought conditions in these areas,” the CPC outlook states. “All southern states are at risk of having above normal wildfire conditions starting this winter and lasting into the spring.”
As for the immediate forecast, the National Weather Service is calling for a slight chance for rain or sleet overnight tonight and through Saturday night with a high temperature on Saturday in the lower 40s.
But a small warm up is coming.
The NWS is forecasting high temperatures to rebound into the upper 40s Sunday and Monday and maybe even a 50-degree day on Tuesday. Daytime highs look to stay in the mid-40s Wednesday and Thursday.