As Beaufort County awaits Tropical Storm Hermine, county and city agencies are preparing for the possible heavy rain and strong winds.
Emergency personnel countywide are operating at the same emergency level — Operating Condition 4. Property, equipment and areas that typically flood are being prepared and monitored ahead of the storm.
Here are some things residents can do now to prepare, from Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Chief Reece Bertholf:
- Clean up yards of debris, lawn furniture and other loose items
- Review a personal plan for withstanding an extended power outage
- Be mindful of coastal and low-lying flooding Friday, and never enter flood water
- Monitor weather reports and stay aware
Boaters should stay off the water and swimmers stay out of the water and away from beaches, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a public service announcement from its Jacksonville, Fla. office.
Large boats should be secured at inland marinas. Boats that can be transported on trailers should be pulled from the water and stored in an area not prone to flooding, the Coast Guard announcement said.
“Roadway ponding is always a concern for safety on the public roadways,” Lt. Colonel Neil Baxley commander of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s Emergency Management Division said. “We encourage motorists to always drive safely during inclement weather.”
“The Emergency Operations Center has not been activated at this time,” Capt. Bob Bromage said Thursday afternoon. “But we will monitor closely and update with any changes.”
Preparations are being made throughout the county.
North of the Broad River:
▪ Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Chief Bertholf said the department is reviewing plans, monitoring the weather and preparing grounds and equipment for a possible tropical storm. Expected effects are similar to a severe thunderstorm, though they could be more widespread, Bertholf said. Downed trees and power outages are expected.
▪ The town of Port Royal delivered a special edition of its weekly email newsletter advising residents on the storm. The letter encouraged residents to be prepared by making an emergency plan, building or restocking a basic emergency kit — including food and water, flashlight, batteries, chargers, cash and first aid supplies — and being familiar with local emergency plans.
▪ Hunting Island State Park will follow an emergency action plan for tropical storms and storm season and is well prepared, State Park Service director Phil Gaines said.
“The next big thing is to get the word out that hopefully this storm will be out by Saturday and we’re going to have a great beautiful Labor Day weekend,” Gaines said. “We’re hopeful people don’t change their entire Labor Day weekend plans because of the storm.”
South of the Broad River:
▪ The Town of Bluffton’s Emergency Management Division is following the protocols of Operating Condition 4, according to a town news release.
Preparations include cleaning storm drains, speaking with builders to ensure equipment is secured at construction sites, identifying areas that commonly flood, checking all equipment is working efficiently that would assist personnel in clearing roads and asking the public to monitor the storm as well as clean any debris in yards.
▪ The Town of Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue will operate at full staff for the storm, Michael Mayers, deputy fire chief, said. He said that includes 35 firefighters and paramedics.
Day staff also has started prepping equipment, Mayers said. This includes fueling vehicles and saws along with sharpening blades, he said.
“We carry extra saws on the engines and trucks,” Mayers said. “If it becomes more of a wind event we will staff up some pick-up trucks and send teams out to address the tree issues.”
Notifications sent via the town’s electronic message alert system started going out to the public Wednesday afternoon. The messages are keeping subscribers up to date on latest weather forecasts and directing them to the town’s website for information on how to prepare.
To subscribe or receive information on how to prepare visit www.hiltonheadislandsc.gov
Scott Liggett, Hilton Head director of public projects and facilities, said town staff is taking other steps to prepare. That includes checking pump stations, lowering the water surface elevations in lagoons along with communicating with property owner associations about storm preparations.
Beach chairs and lifeguard stands were pulled back on Hilton Head beaches Thursday, said Mike Wagner, Hilton Head Shoreline Services operation manager.
“We don’t want to take it all off the beach because it will be needed Saturday,” Wagner said. “In some cases it was moved back five feet and in other 50 feet.”
Shoreline staff is also preparing for how it will watch the coast Friday, Wagner said.
“We will be in a bit of a different mode,” Wagner said. “On a normal day you will walk out to the beach and see a lifeguard. We will be in vehicles guarding the area tomorrow.”
Most people will probably stay away, Wagner said. Yet, he said you never know what some people might do.
“You could always find that one person who will run out to the water to say they swam in a tropical storm,” Wagner said.
The town’s renourishment project also came to a halt Wednesday as the contractors, Weeks Marine, Inc., worked to prepare for the storm. The projects dredge was moved inshore and about 200 pieces of pipeline was moved to a site on North Forest beach.
Shelter Cove Towne Centre also announced Thursday it was rescheduling Friday’s Sunset Celebration with Cranford Hollow to Saturday Sept. 10. For more information visit www.sheltercovetownecentre.com
Other selected closings:
The Savannah and Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuges will be closed Friday. Staff will begin storm damage evaluation Saturday morning and the refuges will re-open once it is determined it is safe.
Hardeeville government offices will be closed Friday.
Bluffton Self Help will be closed Friday and will reopen Tuesday.
The Heritage Library on Hilton Head and in Beaufort will be closed Friday.
All Beaufort County governmental offices will be closed Friday.
The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center outpatient clinics in Beaufort, Savannah and Hinesville, Ga., will also be closed Friday.
Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority will be closed Friday.