South Carolinians are warily eyeing approaching winter weather though the state appears to be on the southern fringes of a major storm that's expected to dump heavy snow on the East Coast

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — South Carolinians warily eyed approaching winter weather Thursday though the state appeared to be on the extreme southern fringes of a major storm that's expected to clobber the East Coast with heavy snow.

Rain and freezing rain were expected to start falling Thursday evening in South Carolina, with snow possible Friday evening into Saturday morning, the National Weather Service said.

The state wasn't quite ready to activate its emergency center, but was warning agencies to be ready if the weather turns icy, Emergency Management Division spokesman Derrec Becker said.

That meant the Department of Transportation was treating roads with brine Thursday and telling crews to stand by. The South Carolina National Guard told state troopers they had wreckers and other equipment ready to share to keep highways open and to rescue stranded drivers.

When Peter Ramsey heard the weather report, he headed to the store. While skies were sunny Thursday morning in Greenville, he didn't want to be caught without a shovel for snow or salt to melt ice.

Ramsey hit a couple of places but couldn't find what he wanted.

"The problem is it was so warm over the holidays that they have their spring stuff out," said Ramsey, 34, a salesman. "I have a few more places to go. I just want to have it on hand, just in case."

A winter storm warning was in effect for nine counties in the northwestern and central parts of the state until 7 p.m. Saturday. A freezing rain advisory was in effect in the northeastern section of the state.

At least 4 inches of snow was possible in Greenville and Spartanburg, with lesser amounts east to Rock Hill.

Up to a half inch of ice accumulation was also expected. Freezing rain was possible from Spartanburg to Conway.

Transportation Department officials said the worst conditions were expected along the Interstate 85 corridor from Anderson to Cherokee counties. Crews began working 12-hour shifts Thursday to pre-treat roads especially in the mountains and north of I-85, transportation department spokesman Pete Poore said.

Crews also began pre-treating parts of I-77 in York County and some roads in the Pee Dee.

Duke Energy reported no problems Thursday afternoon.

South Carolina has opened its emergency operations center at least once for each of the past three years. An ice storm in 2014 knocked out power to about 250,000 customers. In 2015, nearly 2 feet of rain fell in two days in parts of South Carolina, causing historic flooding.

"Knock on wood we might not need to activate. Every storm is different," Becker said. "We hope people have taken their precautions and are ready."

Several school districts cancelled Friday classes before anything fell. Lancaster County also closed its offices.

But business was normal at several grocery stores. Usually before a storm, they're packed with shoppers stocking up.

"It's too early. People wait until the last minute," said Emily Marcus, 44, a financial consultant. She was running into a Publix grocery near Greenville to pick up a few things for her office.

But she wasn't thinking of snow: "The weather has been so unpredictable. I have flowers coming up. As far as snow, I'll believe it when I see it."

Associated Press reporter Mitch Weiss contributed to this report from Greenville, South Carolina.

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