Updated feed: The latest as Tropical Storm Florence, now a deadly storm, enters South Carolina

Local updates on store closures and forecasts

Posted

Stay tuned here for updates on Hurricane Florence as they come in, including preparations and possible impacts in Sumter, Lee and Clarendon counties.

3 p.m.

A Duke Energy Progress spokeswoman, Shawna Berger, said the best way to report an outage is to call its toll-free number, (800) 419-6356. She said an outage only needs to be reported one time.

Duke Energy Progress reports there are currently 3,300 outages for their customers (homes or businesses) in Sumter, Clarendon and Lee counties. Most of Duke’s customers in Sumter are within the City of Sumter.

The 3,300 outage total is out of 43,120 customers in the three counties, or about 0.8 percent.

Sumter: 2,068

Clarendon: 142

Lee: 1,090

--Sumter Item reporter Bruce Mills.

Gov. Henry McMaster announced that all state offices that were previously closed will reopen on Monday. Also all school closures - except those in Horry and Georgetown counties - are immediately returned to local school authorities.

According to a recent tweet from the Federal Aviation Adminstration drone pilots are warned not to fly drones near or around areas impacted by Hurricane Florence. Persons doing so may face a $20,000 fine for interfering with emergency response operations.

2 p.m.

Black River Electric Cooperative reports outages for their customers in their four-county service area are down to 548 individual homes or businesses. BREC serves portions of Sumter, Clarendon, Lee and Kershaw counties.

Outages reported as of 2 p.m. by county for BREC:

Sumter: 66

Clarendon: 21

Lee: 78

Kershaw: 383

At its height, BREC had 3,500 outages reported across the four counties on Friday night/Saturday morning. BREC serves about 32,000 individual accounts.

A BREC representative said the coop began work Saturday at 6 a.m. and plans to continue to work to restore power until 9 p.m. Saturday.

--Sumter Item Reporter Bruce Mills

12 noon

Churches in the area are announcing cancellations of Sunday services.

Alice Drive Baptist Church

First Presbyterian Church

First Baptist Church

Crosspoint Baptist Church

Christ Community Church

Salt and Light Church

Sumter First Church of the Nazarene

11 a.m.

Florence, still moving west at 2 mph with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, is located 40 miles west of Myrtle Beach and 40 miles south Florence, according to an 11 a.m. adviosry from the National Hurricane Center. 

Tropical-storm-force winds extend up to 150 miles. 

Tropical storm warnings have been discontinued south of South Santee River and north of Cape Lookout, North Carolina. 

A tropical storm warning is still in effect from Sourth Santee River and to Cape Lookout, North Carolina. 

Gov. Henry McMaster has lifted evacuation orders for all residents in Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley counties, along with Edisto Beach in Colleton county, effective at noon today, states a news release from S.C. Department of Transportation. 

Evacuation orders are still in place for areas of Georgetown and Horry counties at the request of local officials. 

A decision on state government offices and school closings will be made once local emergency management and law enforcement officials have accessed damage and existing shelter needs, states the release. 

Drivers are urged to avoid standing water and natural bodies of water where flooding is possible. 

Duke Energy reports 3.837 customers without power in Sumter County; 879 in Clarendon County; and 1,443 in Lee County. 

Duke reported more than 500,000 power outages as of 10 a.m.

There are 221 Black River Electric customers without power in Sumter County; six in Clarendon County; and 60 in Lee County.

Santee Electric reports 156 customers without power in Clarendon County. 

Pee Dee Electric is not reporting any outages. 

--- By Sumter Item Staff Reporter Adrienne Sarvis

8 a.m.

Florence is expected to weaken to a tropical depression as it continues its westward crawl over South Carolina at a reported speed of 2 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center's 8 a.m. advisory. 

Maximum sustained winds have reportedly dropped to 50 mph as the storm was located about 35 miles west of Myrtle Beach this morning. 

Sustained winds of 44 mph with gusts to 51 mph have been recorded along North Carolina's southeastern coast.

"Prolonged significant river flooding" is expeced as rain continues. 

Sumter County opened the spillway gates of Second Mill Dam Tuesday morning so rain waters could continuously flow in Pocalla Swamp, or Green Swamp, located behind the dam. Water levels at the swamp could be higher than usual. 

Tropical-storm-force wind gusts continue to spread inland over South Carolina and North Carolina. 

Tornadoes are possible in northeastern South Carolina today through tonight.

There are 3,728 Duke Energy customers without power in Sumter County; 864 in Clarendon County; and 1,257 in Lee County. 

Black River Electric is reportring 1,065 customers without power in Sumter County; 28 in Clarendon County; and 886 in Lee County. 

There are 236 Santee Electric cusomters without power in Clarendon County and still one Pee Dee Electric customer without power in Lee County.

--- By Sumter Item Staff Reporter Adrienne Sarvis

2 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 15

Tropical Storm Florence is reported to have maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and is headed west-southwest over South Carolina at approximately 5 mph as it causes "catastrophic flooding" in some areas of South Carolina and North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center's 2 a.m. advisory. 

This motion of travel is expected to continue through Saturday morning.

Florence is located about 25 miles west of Myrtle Beach and about 40 miles south-southeast of Florence. 

The storm is expected to gradually weaken as it continues to move further inland before turning northward through the Carolinas and the Ohio Valley by  Monday. 

Inland portions of South Carolina affected by Florence are expected to receive 5 to 10 inches of rain, with 15 inches in some areas. This rainfall will cause life-threatening flash flooding in some areas of the state, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

Local law enforcement encourages residents to stay off the roads unless it is absolutely necessary to travel. 

Call 911 if there is an emergency or dial (803) 436-2700 for non-emergency calls. 

Duke Energy reports 3,135 customers without power in Sumter County; 776 in Clarendon County; and 836 in Lee County. 

There are 1,056 Black River Electric customers without power in Sumter County; 356 in Clarendon County; and 788 in Lee County. 

Santee Electric Cooperative reports 190 customers without power in Clarendon County and Pee Dee Electric reports one customer with power in Lee County. 

--- By Sumter  Item Staff Reporter Adrienne Sarvis

11 p.m.

Florence has weakened a little and has also increased in speed a little, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. advisory.

The tropical storm was located about 45 miles southeast of the city of Florence with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour moving west-southwest at 5 mph.

There are 2,123 Duke Energy and 1,031 Black River Electric Cooperative customers without power. Electric cooperatives have more than 53,500 outages reported throughout the state.

9 p.m.

All four locations of Simpson Hardware  and Sports will be closed tomorrow. According to their posts on social media, a truck with more supplies is planning to arrive on Sunday to be ready for customers on Monday. That plan may change depending on impacts from the storm.

8 p.m.

As night falls, Florence’s center is moving into South Carolina.

The National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. advisory puts Tropical Storm Florence 55 miles east-southeast of the city of Florence in the county neighboring Sumter. It is moving west at 3 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

Tropical storm-force winds are extending up to 175 miles from the center.

Shaw Air Force Base is recording northwest 41-mph winds.

Hundreds of thousands of Duke Energy customers are without power are winds continue to blow from Tropical Storm Florence, and North Carolinians are entering their second night at the hands of the storm.

The power company is projecting between 1 and 3 million power outages will be reported across the Carolinas based on the storm’s latest track and the overall forecast.

“We are expecting a massive storm that is hitting us with high winds and historic amounts of rainfall,” said Howard Fowler, Duke Energy’s incident commander. “The storm is moving slowly. As soon as it clears, our workforce of more than 20,000 is ready to begin restoration.”

Using bucket trucks to repair power lines and other electrical infrastructure in winds greater than 35 miles per hour is not safe for workers, Fowler said.

Power restoration will begin once winds drop below that speed.

It could take weeks – not days – to restore power in the hardest-hit areas, Fowler said.

The company's restoration workforce is located at 35 staging areas – base camps across the Carolinas from which crews can be quickly dispatched to begin repairs when it is safe to do so.

One of the challenges with Hurricane Florence is that the storm is moving slowly across the Carolinas, and is not due to fully strike some regions for another one to two days.

Outage reporting

Customers who experience an outage during the storm can report it by:

* Visiting duke-energy.com

* Texting "OUT" to 57801 (standard text and data charges may apply)

* Calling the automated outage-reporting system at 800-769-3766 for Duke Energy Carolinas customers, and 800-419-6356 for Duke Energy Progress customers.

High water warnings

Heavy rainfall from Hurricane Florence will affect river basins and the operation of the company's available hydroelectric power plants.

The designs of the company's dams and current water levels determine the best way to move water through the plants at any given time.

High-water safety reminders:

* People who live along lakes and rivers and in other low-lying areas or areas prone to flooding should pay close attention to local emergency management officials, national weather service and local media for changing weather conditions and rising lake and river levels.

* High water conditions can create navigational hazards and the public should use caution and adhere to the advice of local emergency management officials.

5:50 p.m.

More than 1,000 customers in Sumter County are currently without power, according to Duke Energy. More than 40,000 in the state are without power, according to the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, including more than 1,400 in Clarendon County.

5:40 p.m.

As wind speeds continue to pick up, the Sumter Police Department is urging residents to wrap up last-minute preparations and return to shelter.

“They are on our doorstep,” said lead detective John Melton about the winds in a video posted to Facebook.

Residents should also prepare for potentially heavy rains and power outages, he said.

As Tropical Storm Florence moves further inland, residents are more likely to experience outages, which will also affect traffic signals.

If traffic signals do lose power, Staff. Sgt. Robert Singleton said to treat those intersections as four-way stops. 

If power has been restored to an intersection, the lights will flash, he said. 

Yellow lights mean to proceed through the intersection with caution, and red lights mean to stop and yield to the other lane of traffic, Singleton said.

The police department also wants residents to limit cell phone calls to save phone batteries in case of power outages and to keep cell towers clear for emergency calls. 

For non-emergency calls, dial (803) 436-2700. 

Lead Cpl. Mikeal Jennings said residents should stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary and to avoid standing water. 

Heavy rains are expected to cause localized flooding, which will lead to road closures in some areas. 

If there are cones or barricades blocking a road, do not attempt to go around them, Singleton said. 

“They are there for your safety,” he said. 

Residents are also asked to call to check on elderly and disabled neighbors, especially those who live alone and have no family members in the area, when it is safe and possible to do so. 

Those who need to find shelter should go to Sumter High School, 2580 McCrays Mill Road, or Mayewood Middle School, 4300 E. Brewington Road, which are both set up as emergency shelters operated by American Red Cross and S.C. Department of Social Services. 

However, no pets are allowed at either shelter. 

In case of an emergency, call 911.

--- By Item Staff Reporter Adrienne Sarvis

5 p.m.

The wet, slow-moving Florence is now a tropical storm and has reached the city of Florence, Sumter's neighbor.

As of the 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Florence is moving toward the west near 3 miles per hour and that Doppler radar data and surface observations indicate that maximum sustained winds have decreased near 70 mph.

Tropical storm-force winds extend up to 175 miles out from the center.

Forecasters are warning that just because the 400-mile-wide storm is now a tropical storm, people should not let their guard down. The main threat now will be extensive rainfall amounts.

The Associated Press is reporting that two more people have died frmo the storm. One person was killed while plugging in a generator, and another was knocked to the ground while outside and died.

A storm surge watch has been discontinued south of Myrtle Beach and north of Salvo, North Carolina, including Albemarle Sound, and a hurricane warning has been replaced with a tropical storm warning from South Santee River to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. A tropical storm warning has been discontinued north of Cape Hatteras, including Albemarle Sound.

Sumter, Lee, Claredon and Kershaw counties and Columbia remain in a tropical storm warning and flash flood watch.

4:50 p.m.

The commander on duty for the Sumter operations center of the South Carolina National Guard and an assistant were seen shopping in the shoe section at Simpson Hardware on Friday afternoon.

 Lt. Col. Adrian Priester and Staff Sgt. Michael King weren't shopping for the latest pair of Nike's for strength training exercises, however. Instead, it was for rubber, waterproof boots – 50 pairs for soldiers coming in to the area to help with relief efforts associated with Hurricane Florence.  

Priester said in military terms this was a "local purchase" to outfit the soldiers for inclement weather operations. 

S.C. National Guard units across the state plan to assist local law enforcement groups and fill in needed gaps with support in the event of heavy storms with Florence this weekend, according to Priester.

--- By Sumter Item Staff Reporter Bruce Mills

4:20 p.m.

Shaw Air Force Base is now at Hurrican Condition 1 (HURCON 1), which indicates that winds of 58 miles per hour or greater are possible within 12 hours.

The base continues to operate under mission-essential reporting duty status, which means that only mission-essential personnel should report to base through Friday.

The main gate is still operating on a normal schedule through Friday. The 441 and Sumter gates are both closed.

4 p.m.

Luther Jamison, store operator of Piggly Wiggly, 1011 Broad St., said Friday afternoon that his store has been extremely busy with Hurricane Florence preparations since Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency for the state last Saturday. 

Since then, his store has put purchase limitations on bread and bottled water for customers.

It's been two loaves of bread and two cases of bottled water per customer per day. 

"As soon as we get a stack of bread, it's gone," Jamison said. 

He said customers have cooperated well with the policy. 

"Everybody has kind of learned through the years since the historic flood [in 2015]," Jamison said. 

The store's policy on bread and bottled water has been in place since the state of emergency was declared seven days ago. 

"We've got experience with this," he said.

--- By Sumter Item Staff Reporter Bruce Mills

3:55 p.m.

Like any businessman and homeowner in Sumter County this week, Nat Bradford of Bradford Family Watermelon spent Friday finishing preparations for Hurricane Florence. The farmer located northeast of Dalzell mostly focused on his family’s famous watermelons and his newest project, hemp plants.

He said he was not as worried about the hemp – he is one of 20 farmers in South Carolina to have been awarded a license to participate in a pilot program for state research on the crop – because he would still be able to harvest the grain and seeds, which is goal for this research crop.

Winds would be more a concern than flooding, though that wouldn’t have been the case for Bradford is he hadn’t harvested his watermelons already. They’re grown in a lower-lying area of the field.

He had about 900 watermelons stored in what can be chalked up to be a giant refrigerator. He said he was planning to use them to brew beer anyway. Now he’ll just do it sooner than planned.

--- BySumter Item Chief Digital Officer Micah Green

3:05 p.m.

Hurricane Florence has claimed its first lives after a mother and infant in North Carolina were killed when a tree fell on their home.

According to reports from The Assocaited Press, The  Wilmington Police Department said Friday that the father was transported to a hospital for treatment. No other information was given.

The National Hurricane Center says more than 16 inches of rain have fallen at locations in southeast North Carolina and another 20 to 25 inches is on the way.

2:30 p.m.

The Walmart Neighborhood Market on Bultman Drive and its gas station are closed.

The CVS on Alice Drive at Wise Drive is open and has a sign asking for patience at the pharmacy because of the hurricane.

2 p.m.

Hurricane Florence may only be a Category 1 storm, but the snail’s pace of its movement is not letting up its downpour of rain.

The path of the storm has not changed much in the last handful of updates from the National Hurricane Center. It is projected to head west and cut through central and north South Carolina today through Sunday morning before turning back to the northeast via Kentucky toward New York.

At about 35 miles east-northeast of Myrtle Beach after making landfall near Wilmington Beach, North Carolina, Florence is moving to the west at only 5 mph.

Hurricane-force winds extend up to 35 miles from the center, and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 170 miles from the center.

There are 28,252 power outages reported to the  Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. Duke Energy is reporting 149 outages in Sumter County.

1:30 p.m.

Downtown Sumter Friday around lunch was a mix of business as usual and abandonment.

Many businesses were closed. Most had sandbags guarding the front doors. Some sported taped windows, and even less had plywood covering windows.

There was no rain yet, but the wind was a foreshadowing of what Florence was to bring soon. Without context, it could be mistaken as a, “Man, it’s windy outside” type of day, but every 10 minutes or so a stronger gust (Shaw Air Force Base is recording winds at 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service) would give a sense that it was more.

In the calm before Florence, what was opened was packed. City government offices were closed. Sidebar, Jin Jin and Church’s Chicken were filled to the brim. People were working out at F45. A block away, the Sumter fountain at the corner of Main and Liberty streets was not flowing.

Heading west on Liberty Street, it seemed people were getting ready to hunker down. The Shell gas station was down to just one or two pumps, the rest covered in a yellow out of order plastic bag.

A pole at North Washington Street at West Calhoun Street sparked, causing the lights to blink for about 20 seconds before resuming to normal.

Passersby, what was left of them, could spot a woman writing on plywood stuck to the front door of Impressions clothing store on Liberty: “#SCstrong. Go away Florence. God is in control.”

12:30 p.m.

More than 17,000 power outages have been reported to the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina in the Myrtle Beach are of Horry County on the northeast coast of South Carolina.

More than 700  outages have been reported in Georgetown County.

Duke Energy is showing 95 outages in Sumter County.

11 a.m.

Forecasts are showing Sumter may see up to 12 inches of rainfall. Sumter, Clarendon, Lee and the Columbia remain in a tropical storm warning, and some rivers and water ways are in a flood warning to the east near the city of Florence.

Sumter is in a flood watch until Sept. 16 at 8 p.m.

Anyone in the area who lives in a flood-prone area “may want to consider” going to one of the two shelters open in Sumter, according to the City of Sumter:

Sumter High School, 2580 McCrays Mill Road, Sumter, SC 29154

Mayewood Middle School, 4300 E. Brewington Road, Sumter, SC 29153

In Lee County:

Lee Central High School, 1800 Wisacky Hwy., Bishopville, SC 29010

In Clarendon County:

Clarendon One Resource Center (Old Scott’s Branch High School), 4th Street, Summerton, SC 29148

East Clarendon Middle-High School, 1171 Pope St, Turbeville, SC 29162

Manning High School, 2155 Paxville Hwy, Manning, SC 29102

Old Summerton High School, 1102 4th Street, Summerton, SC 29148

No pets are allowed at these shelters.

We also have a list of shelters open throughout the state.

---

Officials in Sumter are asking residents to limit cell phone use when the weather gets bad because cell phone towers can get inundated and disrupt emergency calls for first responders. During bad weather, try to only use cell phones for an emergency.

Hurricane Florence has made landfall and is just inland near Cape Fear, North Carolina.

According to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. forecast, significant freshwater flooding is expected over portions of North Carolina and South Carolina in the next few days.

Florence currently has maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour with higher gusts and is moving west-southwest at 3 mph. The storm is expected to move further inland across southeastern South Carolina later today.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center, and tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.

10:30 a.m.

Palmetto Health is offering online care for more than 100 common conditions for free to residents impacted by the hurricane.

SmartExam is available from a mobile device or computer and does not require an app or video capabilities. Users will complete an online interview about their symptoms, which are reviewed by licensed Palmetto Health providers. Conditions treated include minor illnesses such as the flu, sinus pain, urinary tract infections and rashes.

Any prescriptions are sent electronically to a local pharmacy of your choice.

This service is available for adults 18 years and older.

In the case of a medical emergency, do not use this service. Call 911.