The newest weather models are showing Hurricane Florence aiming for a direct hit on North Carolina Friday morning, and the Carolinas and Virginia are continuing to prepare for its impact.
Following is the latest on the storm, what the area is doing to prepare and other vital information.
As of now, no decision has been made about the closure of Sumter city or county offices, according to Joe Perry, spokesman for the county.
Representatives from the City of Sumter, Sumter County Government, Sumter Fire Department, Sumter Police Department, Sumter County Sheriff's Office, Sumter County Emergency Medical Services and Sumter County Coroner's Office met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the potential impact from Florence on the area.
"Traffic is expected to increase in the area, and we urge motorists to be patient and mindful that people are evacuating the coast," Perry said.
The South Carolina Forestry Commission will issue a State Forester's Burning Ban for all counties effective at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
A State Forester's Burning Ban prohibits all outdoor burning, including yard debris burning, campfires and burning for forestry, wildlife or agricultural purposes in unincorporated areas. While open-fire cooking is not included in the ban, the Forestry Commission strongly advises all citizens to be extremely vigilant until the ban is lifted.
As South Carolina residents prepare for the potential impacts of Florence, farmers are also getting ready for the storm to impact their livestock and crops.
The largest concern statewide is the corn harvest, which is already underway. Farmers are trying to work around the clock to get their crop in as quickly as possible, according to Lauren Prettyman, digital media director for the SC Farm Bureau Federation.
As of Sept. 4, about 63 percent of the corn statewide had been harvested. South Carolinians planted 310,000 acres of corn in 2018, a crop valued at more than $187 million annually.
“We appreciate Governor McMaster’s leadership and foresight in issuing the executive order lifting the weight restrictions for transport of agricultural crops and livestock,” SCFB President Harry Ott said. “My family and I have been in our fields trying to harvest as much as we can before the rain begins. Farmers in South Carolina weathered the 1,000-year flood in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, so we are certainly praying for the best.”
Farmers are also harvesting tobacco, and the majority of it is grown in the Pee Dee region, which is expected to be the hardest-hit area in South Carolina. Annually, tobacco accounts for $48 million in cash receipts and is among the state’s top ten commodities.
All farmers are encouraged to lower their farm ponds to help mitigate extra stress on dams. SCFB will share up-to-date news from government agencies, such as USDA-RMA, and the State Department of Agriculture, throughout the next several days and weeks.
Sumter County is within the bottom left of the cone of the forecast cone. Inland areas are also subject to flash flooding from heavy and prolonged rainfall, according to the National Weather Service. It total, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association is predicting accumulations of 15-20 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 30 inches near the storm's track over portions of the Carolinas from late this week into early next week.
"This rainfall could cause catastrophic flash flooding and significant river flooding," the agency said in its 11 a.m. advisory.
Along the coast, a storm surge of up to 12 feet is forecasted and as low as 2 feet, depending on how far north or south.
Wind speeds may reach up to 50 miles per hour in Sumter County as Florence makes landfall as a major hurricane. The storm is currently experiencing maximum sustained winds near 130 miles per hour with higher gusts. Florence is expected to re-strengthen later today and continue a slow strengthening trend for the next day or so, according to the agency.
As Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast, the South Carolina Wing of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is assisting with evacuation efforts by monitoring lane reversals, which were ordered by Gov. Henry McMaster on Monday to begin Tuesday at noon.
The first CAP aircrew began flying at about 8 a.m. over I-26 in South Carolina to observe traffic flow along the evacuation route. The team is looking for any issues that could impede traffic flow — including stalled vehicles and accidents — and reporting that information back to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.
Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force, according to 1st Lt. Rachael J. Mercer, CAP, SCWG Public Affairs Officer. In this role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 aircraft, performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Tuesday morning that federal emergency aid has been made available to the state of South Carolina to supplement state, tribal, local response efforts to Hurricane Florence.
President Trump’s action to sign the emergency declaration authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts, which have the “purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering causing by the emergency on the local population and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in all of South Carolina’s 46 counties and the Catawba Indian Nation,” according to a FEMA news release.
FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding, the release said.
Elizabeth Turner has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal response operations in the affected area. Turner said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.
The Palmetto SC Region of the American Red Cross is preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Florence and is looking for volunteers to join the team as shelters begin to open.
Anyone who wants to volunteer at shelters should visit www.redcross.org/sc to start their application. After that, a member of the Red Cross will reach out and a background check will be performed.
“For days now, our dedicated volunteers have been working non-stop to prepare for Hurricane Florence,” said Louise Welch Williams, regional CEO. “If South Carolina residents are looking for volunteer opportunities, the Red Cross would love them to join our team.”
The Red Cross says sending food and clothing does more harm than good because it takes time and money right now to sort and store the items, which diverts limited time and resources away from helping those most affected.
Help people affected by disasters large and small by texting “FLORENCE” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Visit the organizations website to find a blood drive or collection location near you.
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