February 12, 2014

Gov. Nikki Haley: This storm worse than 2004's

Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday that the ice and snow storm blanketing much of South Carolina will be worse than the 2004 winter blast that knocked out power to 200,000 homes – some for as long as a week.

Speaking from the state’s emergency operations headquarters in West Columbia, Haley told South Carolinians to “hunker down and stay home.”

She said her request for a federal declaration of emergency on Wednesday was “really more precautionary just in case we need generators, (food), water, anything to supplement what we already need. It is more of me just making sure we’re ahead of the curve.”

Haley met with emergency leaders and heads of the National Guard and transportation and public safety agencies to go over plans.

“All of us have practiced this for three years,” she said. “We will continue to manage this hour by hour.”

The state goes through real-time drills for emergencies with various state agencies to prepare for storm. Drills also include emergency-responses teams in counties and the S.C. National Guard, state officials.

“You can never be too good in a situation like that,” she said.

Some 82,000 homes across the state were without power shortly before noon and that number continues to rise. More than 4,600 utilities workers are spread across the state.

More than 1,500 state Department of Transportation maintenance workers were clearing roads. The state had 4,400 tons of road salt recently delivered – enough to get through Friday if needed, Haley said.

More than 350 state officers – troopers and State Law Enforcement Division and Department of Natural Resources agents – were patrolling roads. Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith stepped out of his SUV to aid in a accident after the governor’s news conference.

Officers have been involved in a pair of accidents. One motorist has been killed in a separate accident on I-95, she said. Haley asked motorists to stay off roads and stay out of the way of first responders.

A dozen shelters have opened, including 10 warming stations in conjunction of with the American Red Cross, Haley said. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has opened two special-needs centers in Orangeburg and Darlington. More could open at counties’ request.

The Ravenel Bridge in Charleston is closed again because of freezing on the roadway. The span over the Cooper River was closed for two days during the storm two weeks ago.

Haley said the state cannot prevent businesses from requiring people come to work, but she hopes they listen to warnings about treacherous road conditions.

“This is not a good day to have anyone out on the roads and we hope that everybody will listen to that,” she said.

When Haley declared a state of emergency Tuesday, she put triggered the state emergency operation center and put the S.C. National Guard on active duty.

“It will get worse as the day goes on,” S.C. Adjutant General Robert Livingston said. “We have the resources out there to take care of those needs.”

No counties have asked for the state help yet, S.C. emergency division director Kim Stenson said: “But we expect to have requests as the day goes on.”

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