Local emergency divisions prepare for evacuees of Hurricane Florence

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Monday, Sept. 10, 2018
News 12 at 11

AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- Aiken County isn't taking any chances when it comes to Hurricane Florence.

"We are already at a heightened state right now, being aware we have this huge storm coming in,” said Captain Eric Abdullah, Aiken County Sheriff’s Department.

Governor Henry McMaster's mandatory evacuation of the South Carolina coast comes with a warning.

“This storm will bring more wind than with Hugo, more water than with Matthew,” Governor McMaster said.

State offices and schools will be closed in Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, and Barnwell counties.

“Tomorrow we’ll have a shelter opening up around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.”

Captain Eric Abdullah of the Sheriff's Office was at the county's EMS update early this evening.

He says the shelter will be at South Aiken high school but they don't know how many people will end up here.

EMS Director Paul Matthews says if need be, a second shelter at Silver bluff high school will open. That would only happen if 500 or more fill up in South Aiken.

“There are shelters open below us in other counties, so people may stop there. It’s always a guessing game for us.”

“It’s not our first rodeo. We’ve been here before through Irma, through Matthew, through the floods.”

Both agree, even if the storm doesn’t hit Aiken directly, it’s so large they’ll feel it.

There are plans in place if the storm’s path changes or if the evacuees need to stay a while.

News 12 @ 6 o'clock / NBC 26 at 7

NORTH AUGUSTA, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- The evacuation order for the South Carolina coast was given and evacuees will be taking shelter soon. Aiken Red Cross is waiting to hear from Emergency Management so they can deliver supplies to shelters in Bamberg, Barnwell, Orangeburg, Aiken, and Allendale.

Cases of water and cots crowd the Aiken Red Cross as they prepare for Hurricane Florence.

John Madrid with Aiken Red Cross says they are working to mobilize their shelter volunteers and they continue to work toward reaching out to the community to gain additional volunteers.

Madrid says the evacuation routes along the coast determine which counties will open shelters, from there, it is up to the counties to pick which places will be a shelter.

"The evacuation routes are already predetermined so we know whether the shelters are already going to open so they can accommodate those evacuees," he said.

Madrid goes on to say that shelters could be at schools across 6 counties.

It is unclear at this time which schools will be utilized as shelters until Red Cross will open them one at a time; when one fills up another will open its doors.

Orangeburg is prepared to open around 8 shelters.

At this time, Bamberg and Aiken plan to open one each.

Red Cross in Augusta is preparing too. Based on South Carolina's needs, more may open in Georgia.

City leaders say they anticipate to step in for the evacuees that may make the trek to Richmond County if Florence changes.

Mayor Hardie Davis says the city is preparing to act as a safe haven for those in need.

"When you look at the fact that in a matter of 24 hours you could have people show up on your city, we show them what it means to be in the city of Augusta as if it were their own hometown."

Many agencies met to go over EOC strategy on Monday, Augusta Fire EMA is taking the reigns coordinating resources from disaster supplies and equipment to touching base with AU Health and Red Cross.

"We're looking at what resources we have, making sure things are operable, still working, lined up," said Chief Chris James. The Augusta Fire Chief continues," We're reaching out to calling our partners."

Agencies like animal services have a plan for your pets, the utility department has a plan for higher water levels and the Sheriff's Office along with EMA are crossing their T's and dotting their I's.

The EOC plan is only in partnership with Savannah's, so while any evacuee is welcome, Augusta specifically coordinates with Savannah in natural disasters or emergencies.