Richland County officials are warning Hurricane Florence could be as severe as the 2015 flood.
“As we experienced in the flood of 2015, we may have some areas that are isolated for a lot of time, up to a week,” said Michael Byrd, Richland County Emergency Services director. “So any preparation you can take now will be well worth it if you find yourself in that situation.”
In October 2015, areas of the Midlands received up to two feet of rain in one weekend. The deluge broke dams, flooded homes and businesses, washed out roads, and disrupted Columbia’s water supply.
In a Thursday news conference, Richland County Council chair Joyce Dickerson signed a disaster emergency declaration to make the county eligible for state and federal assistance in the case of flooding or storm damage from Hurricane Florence. The county is expected to begin feeling the effects of the storm on Friday.
That declaration is in effect until all threats are over.
If the storm becomes severe enough, first responders may be suspended until conditions are safe enough for emergency crews to travel, county officials said.
Byrd said most families should be safe in their homes during the storm but urged residents to prepare and stockpile supplies. He also emphasized that if anyone lives in areas that were flooded in 2015, they should find higher ground.
“I can’t emphasize enough for you to find higher ground,” Dickerson said.
The county has “strong monitoring,” in areas hit the worst in 2015, according to Dickerson.
Richland County’s meterologist, Ken Aucoin, increased the estimates of rainfall and wind for the area. The meterologist said Richland could get between eight and 12 inches of rain and sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph and gusts up to 60 mph.
Tornadoes are another factor people need to consider. Richland County’s meteorologist said the path of the storm puts Richland County in the path of Florence’s volatile northeastern quadrant. That area of a hurricane is known to spawn tornadoes.
Byrd said people should plan sheltering locations inside their home in case of twisters.
Dickerson announced that curfews may be implemented during and after the storm.
“I want everybody to be put on notice, when we do, don’t be surprised, because that (a curfew) may happen,” Dickerson said.
Shelters are being opened across Richland County, officials announced. Ridge View High School is opened as a shelter with others coming online soon. Many of the shelters are pet friendly, Dickerson said. The shelters will remain open even after the storm, if necessary.
Dickerson announced that Richland County offices will be closed Friday and Monday with the exception of core employees. She also said people can now text 911 in Richland County in emergencies.
“We do not want you to feel alone,” Dickerson said.