Florence Co. EMD discusses potential storm impacts, evacuation shelters, transportation

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FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The Florence County Emergency Management Department gave a final update before Hurricane Florence’s arrival.

Officials say there has been a major shift in the storm track and Florence County could see impacts from Thursday until Sunday morning. 

Director Dusty Owens says winds will start to pick up Thursday afternoon and wind speeds could range from 20 to 80 miles per hour. The storm is expected to dump more than 10 inches of rain in the area and county-wide power outages are likely. Early Wednesday morning, the Florence County Emergency Operation Center moved to OPCON 2 meaning crews need to be at the maximum preparedness level. On Thursday, they will move to OPCON 1 which calls for full-fledged emergency response efforts. 

“We are definitely going to get hit. It’s merely a question of how intense the effects will be. So do not think that this is going to turn and go away from us. It’s not. If anything, it’ll just drive further to the south which could increase the impacts for us.” said Dusty Owens.

Owens also gave an update on the number of evacuation shelters. There are now five shelters open at local schools. On Tuesday, Hannah-Pamplico Elementary-Middle School was taken off the list due to a water main break which has since been repaired. The shelter is now open, along with the shelters at Wilson High, South Florence High, Lake City High and the Timmonsville Education Center.

Owens also talked about debris on the roads and the cleanup efforts. He says the county already has a contractor hired to address those issues. 

“Florence County’s plan is to implement the same procedure that we had in place during Matthew and that is that we will use a contractor and it’s the same contractor that the state will be using to clean state roads within Florence County. We will contract with them to also clean the county maintained roads in Florence county,” he said.

The 911 Dispatch Center is stepping up their operations during the storm. They will have an additional 10 to 12 dispatchers per shift starting Thursday. About 22 dispatchers will be on board at all times. Officials say that will ensure that every call is answered. They’re urging people who call 911 to stay on the line no matter what.

“The system is set up to where if you dial 911 and we are busy here and we’re not busy in your ear, it will send it into a que and it will wait for one of our lines to release and it will send it to us. You do not need to hang up after several rings because if you hang up, it drops you into the back of the que so be patient, stay on the phone and we will pick it up. Your call will be answered,” said 911 Dispatch Manager Mitch Fulmore.

Bus transportation also began on Wednesday. The EMD teamed up with the Pee Dee Regional Transportation Authority to provide buses to citizens who can’t drive to the shelters. Buses will run at various times throughout the day between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. According to the EMD, “all picks ups will be transported to the Lake City High School shelter. For Lake City residents please utilize the normal transit route for transport to Lake City High School shelter. For transport to Wilson High School please utilize normal pickup routes for downtown Florence and Quinby routes.”

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