SC emergency officials adapt as hurricane season arrives during pandemic

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricane season has arrived.

“This is a very challenging year,” said South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster in a press conference Thursday with state safety officials.

“According to the weatherman, this will be a heavy hurricane year and we’ve already seen a record number of tornadoes, and a record number of strong tornadoes, in South Carolina,” he continued. “We’ve already been wrestling hard with the coronavirus pandemic since March.”

South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) Director Kim Stenson says his agency is ready for the challenges this season poses.

“The nine major disasters that we’ve experienced in the last seven years places us in an excellent operational posture for any hurricane that may impact South Carolina this year,” Stenson said.

The director is urging South Carolinians to keep four words in mind: time, space, people and place.

Stenson says it will be key this hurricane season to give yourself enough time to prepare a plan that prioritizes social distancing. Know where you will go in the event of an evacuation, he says, and make sure your family is informed of your plan.

Michael Leach, the State Director for the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS)
says a number of changes will be made in shelters to keep evacuees safe from not only a storm but COVID-19 exposure as well.

“We’re looking at about a third capacity at each shelter,” Leach said, to keep with social distancing guidelines.

That doesn’t mean residents, even those battling the virus or recovering from it, won’t have a safe place to go.

Leach says DSS will conduct health screenings and designate shelter areas for South Carolinians that may have COVID-19 or elevated body temperatures.

Rather than having a cafeteria-style setting, shelters will box up meals and distribute them to evacuees. The Red Cross will provide some personal protective equipment, SCEMD will also order some, and DSS will help facilitate where the supplies go.

Leach says it is “critical” for evacuees to bring personal items to shelters, including prescriptions, pillows, blankets, important documents and, if bringing children, any belongings they may need like baby formula or toys. He also advises packing items like cloth masks, hand sanitizer and hygiene products.

For more information on how to prepare, view SCEMD’s 2020 Hurricane Guide here, available in both English and Spanish.

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