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County gets ready for Hurricane Florence

Posted: September 12, 2018 3:54 p.m.
Updated: September 14, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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Wednesday afternoon, it looked like Hurricane Florence would make landfall somewhere near Wilmington, N.C., but then dip slightly south and make its way across South Carolina.

As of noon Wednesday, the National Weather Service listed Hurricane Florence as a Category 4 hurricane approximately 485 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C., with wind speeds at 130 mph, gusting to 160 mph, and moving to the northwest at 15 mph. Landfall times were getting difficult to predict, but Florence could hit the Wilmington area by Saturday morning. Damaging winds and rainfall were, at that point, predicted to cover the entire state of South Carolina, including the Midlands leading to the county to make its preparations days earlier.

Tuesday, the Kershaw County Department of Safety and Emergency Services began holding daily meetings with community agencies to coordinate and plan for Hurricane Florence. Those agencies included the S.C. Department of Transportation, city of Camden fire and police departments, Lugoff Fire-Rescue, the American Red Cross, KershawHealth, the Department of Social Services, Kershaw County School District, and the county’s own 911, EMS, fire, law enforcement, wastewater and public works departments.

At that point, Florence’s path was uncertain, but the county started urging citizens and business owners on Wednesday to take precautions and be prepared. It urged residents to visit the S.C. South Carolina Emergency Management website, which includes a S.C. Hurricane Guide. The guide includes preparation tips for families and pets, important state and federal emergency phone numbers and evacuation routes.

At noon Wednesday, Kershaw County activated its Hurricane Hotline -- (803) 425-7242 -- and said that while normal hotline operations are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., those hours could be extended due to call volumes. The idea, officials said, was for residents to use the hotline to report non-emergency issues and ask questions rather than calling 911, which would likely be swamped with hurricane-related calls.

Also at noon Wednesday, Kershaw County moved to what is known as “OPCON 3,” meaning a disaster or emergency situation is likely. The county activated its S.C. Emergency Operations Plan and specific hazards emergency plans. That notice also provided some additional things to know:

• Kershaw County’s NOAA Weather radio frequencies are 162.400, 162.450 and 162.550.

• Tune into 102.7 FM, 97.5 FM, 106.7 FM, 88.1 FM and 91.3 FM for broadcasted emergency information for Kershaw County.

• For the safety of government employees, the county and its municipalities (Bethune, Camden, Elgin) will NOT deploy staff during sustained winds of 35 mph -- this includes fire, law enforcement, EMS, the school district and utility departments.

• Visit the S.C. Emergency Management website to review The South Carolina Hurricane Guide, which includes preparation tips for families and pets, important state and federal emergency numbers, and evacuation routes.

• On social media, search for local county information related to Hurricane Florence by using the hashtag #kershawcountysc. The county is also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as “Kershaw County SC.”

As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, the S.C. Forestry Commission issued a statewide burn ban. In addition to an elevated fire danger, the commission issued the ban because so many firefighters and emergency personnel/resources are being committed to hurricane-related responses.

Out of extreme precaution, the Kershaw County Department of Safety and Emergency Services is urging all property owners to lower the water levels of private ponds ahead of any impacts from Hurricane Florence. Significant rainfall and flash flooding may result from the storm’s arrival later this week.

Similarly, according to an email from the Lake Wateree Association, Duke Energy is preparing for torrential rainfall in the upper and lower areas of the Catawba-Wateree River basin. Preparations include moving water out of Duke’s reservoirs and lower lake levels to increase reservoir storage capacity. Before and after the hurricane, flow releases from the reservoirs will be higher than usual. Residents are urged not to enter the resulting turbulent and swift water, and for boaters to be especially cautious and observant of floating debris. People living along lakes, streams and other low-lying, flood-prone areas should pay special attention to the weather and take any necessary precautions.

At the end of Tuesday night’s Camden City Council meeting, City Manager Mel Pearson said public works crews were ready to deploy if necessary. He also said Assistant City Manager Caitlyn Young would have staff members ready to be available if needed to answer city hall’s main phone number, (803) 432-2421, has it has during past instances of extreme weather. Pearson said the city would even be monitoring lake levels.

The C-I’s offices are closed today due to the hurricane’s unpredictability. However, we will be updating our Facebook page with as much information as safely possible through the day and during the weekend.

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