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Hurricane Irma

KCSD, county preparing for storm

Posted: September 7, 2017 4:35 p.m.
Updated: September 8, 2017 1:00 a.m.
NOAA Satellites Twitter feed/

An image of Hurricane Irma approaching Puerto Rico taken by the GOES16 satellite around 7 a.m. Wednesday morning. At the time, it was listed as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 185 mph. Storm tracks predict Irma could travel through South Carolina, affecting the entire state, including Kershaw County, by late Monday night. Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said during Tuesday night’s school board meeting that decisions about closing schools will be made “as early as possible.”

“In some way, shape or form, we are probably going to be impacted by this.”

That was the warning about Hurricane Irma from Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan to the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees during its meeting Tuesday night.

Morgan said he would be attending a meeting with county emergency management officials the next morning, Wednesday.

“I had a quick meeting with them this morning,” Morgan said Tuesday, “to start talking about emergency planning because shelters have to be open … (which will) probably be Lugoff-Elgin High School and Camden High School if there’s an evacuation.”

Morgan said district school buses might be used and that the district might need to procure sandbags. He said the district and county would spend the balance of this week being proactive in preparing for the storm. S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, well ahead of Irma’s possible track toward the state.

UPDATED at 12:00 a.m.: As of 11 p.m. Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center announced that Hurricane Irma had made landfall on the northern shore of Cuba as a Category 5 hurricane. NOAA predicts Hurricane Irma's most likely path will place it over the Florida Keys a little after 8 a.m. Sunday, still listed as a "major hurricane" and then moving over southernmost part of the Florida mainland on the Gulf side of the peninsula about 12 hours later. Predictions are that during the next 24 hours the storm will then move up through Floridato reach southwestern Georgia around 8 p.m. Monday as a tropical storm. It is then predicted to move upward through western Georgia, becoming a tropical depression with the storm's center at the center of the Alabama-Tennessee border by around 8 p.m. Tuesday. NOAA's tracking predications now have the storm's center missing virtually all of South Carolina.

UPDATED at 12:00 a.m.: As of midnight, Irma’s maximum sustained winds had increased to 160 mph.

UPDATED at 12:00 a.m.: At midnight, NOAA's forecast for Camden and Kershaw County had decreased the chance of showers and thunderstorms Sunday night to 50 percent, but with winds at 15 to 18 miles per hour, gusting to as much as 29 mph. Monday, there will be a 90 percent showers and possibly a thunderstorm, with some of the storms producing heavy rainfall. It will still be windy. Monday night, there will still be a 90 percent chance of showers, and windy. Tuesday, there will be a 50 percent chance of showers. A NOAA hazardous weather map indicated heavy rains Monday and Tuesday over all of South Carolina, with high winds on Monday in the southwestern part of the state and possible flooding in the western two-thirds of the state, including portions of the Midlands.

“We don’t know what the state is going to require us to do,” Morgan said Tuesday, “but I will keep the board apprised as we know more. We’ll try to make decisions that we have to make -- as early as is reasonable -- to make a reasonable decision about if we have to close schools or if we have to delay schools or if we have to close early or whatever.”

Morgan said such decisions will be made in consultation with neighboring districts.

Thursday morning, KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd said the safety of students and staff is the district’s highest priority.

“We are monitoring the current weather situation and are in close contact with local emergency preparedness officials,” Byrd said “If we make a change to the school schedule, we will communicate that through our Blackboard messaging system, district and school websites, news outlets and social media.”

Late Tuesday, Kershaw County officials issued a press release stating tropical force winds from Irma could impact South Carolina as early as Sunday night.

“Kershaw County citizens and business owners should be aware of possible power outages. Ifyou experience a power outage, please contact your utility provider first. Calling 911 should be one of your last options when handling a power outage,” officials said in the release.

The county said its safety and emergency services department were continuing to actively monitor the hurricane throughout the week and into the weekend, and that it would update citizens and business owners through local media and the county’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Also during Tuesday’s school board meeting, Trustee Todd McDonald announced that a joint committee made up of board members and Kershaw County Council members will meet for the first time on Monday, Sept. 18 in the KCSD board room. The meeting will be open to the public and begin at 6 p.m.

McDonald, who will act as co-chair with Kershaw County Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr., said other members of the committee are trustees Matt Irick and Mark Sury along with councilmen Dennis Arledge and Al Bozard. Camden City Councilman Jeffrey Graham and Elgin Mayor Melissa Emmons will also be on hand. McDonald said law enforcement representatives and private citizens will be added to the mix during subsequent meetings.

“Councilman Tucker and I agreed that we would attack both the growth and the SRO (funding issues) simultaneously,” McDonald said. “The county is gathering data and we’re gathering data. I spoke with Councilman Tucker tonight … and my suggestion to him … is that we take that data and we look at it from a business ‘SWOT’ analysis -- strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are looked at internally and opportunities and threats are looked at externally.”

McDonald said the committee’s initial work will be looking at the district and county from a “30,000-foot (level) looking down.” Morgan noted that Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns wants the committee to bring its solutions forward by January.

In other business, the board:

• recognized representatives from Fred’s Pharmacy and Sonic of Camden and Lugoff for their participation in this year’s Fill A Bus campaign;

• received a construction update from KCSD Director of Operations Billy Smith;

• received an opening of school report from Morgan;

• heard a proposal for a new athletic event admission policy on which it will vote during a subsequent meeting;

• heard a report from Trustee Shirley Halley on the topics covered during the S.C. School Board Association’s School Law Conference held Aug. 19;

• and entered a closed-door session to discuss undisclosed employment matters; a legal matter concerning possible litigation, the subject of which was not disclosed; and a legal matter concerning an undisclosed possible agreement with Kershaw County.

After the closed-door session, trustees voted unanimously to approve recommendations from the administration on the still undisclosed employment matters. The board did not vote on the other two matters discussed during the closed-door session.

Kershaw County issued the following statement late Thursday:

According to Kershaw County officials, in the event Kershaw County opens emergency sheltering, Camden High School and Lugoff-Elgin High School will be the first shelters to open with additional shelters opening as needed. A decision to open emergency shelters in the county will be made late this weekend or early next week. For the latest decisions on emergency sheltering, please visit the Kershaw County website at www.kershaw.sc.gov.

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