Richland County elevated its emergency operations status Wednesday morning as preparations ramped up to assist evacuees expected to begin fleeing the coast today ahead of Hurricane Matthew.
In response to the Governors’ state of emergency declaration Tuesday, the County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated and is currently at OPCON 3, a level which indicates a disaster or emergency situation is likely or imminent. County and other government offices will be closed through Friday to help with the regional effort to keep roads clear of government employees for evacuation traffic.
Richland County is one of the area’s designated host counties for coastal region evacuations. Emergency management officials are expecting increased traffic and demands for services and accommodations as evacuees arrive in the Midlands and remain through the weekend. The County’s EOC oversees the process that involves multiple County departments and community organizations to ensure information is shared and resources and volunteers are dispatched as needed.
Dent Middle School is scheduled to open today to accept evacuees. Other American Red Cross hurricane shelters in the County will be opened on an as-needed basis.
Hurricane Matthew is a Category 3 storm with winds near 120 mph. The hurricane, which had sustained wind speeds of 145 mph, is not expected make landfall in South Carolina, but the latest track shows damaging winds along the coast, with up to a foot of rainfall from Hilton Head to Myrtle Beach from Friday night through Saturday night.
Based on this track, Richland County could experience up to 3 inches of rainfall with winds gusting to 35-45 mph on Saturday. The County’s Public Works Department is making preparations to respond, especially in low-lying areas of the County that could experience flooding.
County curbside trash collection will operate on a regular schedule. The County landfill and the Lower Richland Drop-off facility also will remain open. The County-owned Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens airport also remains open.
For the latest evacuation information, including interstate lane reversals, emergency evacuation routes and interactive maps, visit www.scemd.org. For updates from Richland County, visit www.rcgov.us and follow Richland County on Twitter (@RichlandSC) and Facebook (/RichlandSC).