COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina officials are getting prepared in case Hurricane Dorian's path brings it to the Palmetto State.
Kim Stenson, the Director of South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), says they’re keeping an eye on the storm.
“Right now, we’re watching Hurricane Dorian very closely," Stenson said. "It appears like it’s going to be a Florida landfall, but there certainly can be some impacts here in South Carolina.”
The director says they’re monitoring the storm closely and keeping in contact with county and local emergency personnel, especially in coastal counties, state agencies and the Governor’s Office.
Stenson believes Coastal flooding is possible over the next several days while people continue to wait on what Hurricane Dorian will bring to the east coast.
“Certainly each day we’re going to know more about it,” explained Stenson. “This particular hurricane has been interesting. It was a tropical storm predicted at landfall on Tuesday and on Wednesday they decided it was going to be probably a major hurricane, a Category 3.”
Although it’s Labor Day weekend, Stenson say that won’t affect staffing for SCEMD.
“In terms of the staffing and here at the (South Carolina Operations Center), we’re kind of working that day-to-day right now. We’re working normal operations today and expect to work normal operations tomorrow but we could make some decisions tomorrow in terms of a more full activation this operation,” said Stenson.
South Carolina has had its fair share of hurricanes over the last several years, including Hurricane Michael and Florence in 2018, Tropical Storm Irma in 2017, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The director says past experiences have prepared them for what could come the Palmetto State’s way next week.
“Having multiple events certainly makes us better at it,” explained Stenson. “We’re very fortunate in South Carolina to have a very mature and professional emergency management community, and that includes the local authorities and state agencies and even the federal authorities, as well. We spend a lot of time planning, training, exercising and actually operating together and that makes a whole lot of difference in terms of the outcome.”
Lance Cpl. Trooper David Jones with the South Carolina Highway Patrol says they are waiting on the Governor's Office for further instruction. Troopers will already have a busy weekend because of Labor Day.
"This marks the end of the 100 deadly days of summer," Jones said. "Historically what we see from Memorial Day to Labor Day, our fatality rate tends to increase. It's very important to us as an agency to be out in full force."
Troopers will be looking out for distracted drivers and speeders. They're also expecting many drivers from outside the state to travel to South Carolina for the weekend.
Last year over Labor Day weekend, there were 11 fatalities in South Carolina.
The State Highway Patrol will also have to factor in the weather.
"The question that we've been receiving a lot is what about if we have a potential for hazardous weather during a holiday period and I tell you, with every trooper working, we're already going to have the resources available," explained Jones.
With the past experiences of hurricanes in the state, Trooper Jones say they're ready for anything that may come our way.
"Throughout the years, we've seen where inclement weather has hit us it seems like on a yearly basis now. We have resources and we have plans in place but for now our focus is still continuing on traffic safety."
Trooper Jones says there could be an increase in traffic with people evacuating Florida because of Hurricane Dorian.
SCEMD says it’s important for you to become your own emergency manager. They encourage you now to come up with a plan in case any sort of storm or disaster comes your way.
The division has several tools you can use to help you with emergency planning. First place you can head to is SCEMD.org. There, you can click on the prepare tab to learn what you can be doing now to prepare.
There’s always the South Carolina Emergency Management Division Manager App for your smart phone. Both apps are available on the App Store and Google Play. Within the app you can create your emergency plan, set up a disaster kit, and put in emergency contacts.
“A hurricane can very easily be a full state event. It’s not necessarily limited to just the coastal areas,” said Stenson. “It can certainly be a full coastal event obviously, but it can also be inland with inland flooding, possibility of tornadoes, and certainly, in some cases, hurricane force winds.”
As for the Midlands, the director says how much it will be impacted will depend on the hurricane’s track.
Stenson says the state is still under Opcon Three, meaning they’re in a steady state. Officials will continue to monitor the storm daily and determine if they need to change Opcon levels.