Pee Dee more prepared for disasters 1 year after ice storm - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Pee Dee more prepared for disasters 1 year after ice storm

MULLINS, SC (WMBF) - Along with thick ice, debris and power outages, the ice storm of February 2013 also brought some lessons on disaster preparedness for the Pee Dee.

Mullins opened a warming shelter Thursday at 5 p.m., which will stay open through the weekend when cool temperatures are expected. Prior to the ice storm, warming shelters were rare in the city. Since the storm, the warming shelter at the Mullins Fire Department has opened about seven times.

"I myself was without power for five days," said Mullins Mayor Bo McMillan, in reference to the ice storm. "We made the decision then and it went over very well and you never go wrong when you make a decision in the best interest of those less fortunate."

33,000 of Santee Cooper's customers were out of power after the storm hit, but the majority had their power restored by the next day, said Susan Mungo, public relations specialist at Santee Cooper.

"I was working at Santee Cooper when Hurricane Hugo hit and this is probably the second worst storm I've seen us go through," Mungo said.

She said the electric company is planning to pay closer attention to forecasts and ongoing weather in the future and also have more people on deck to step in during emergencies.

"We ended up with more ice than we were expecting so we will be a little more proactive," Mungo said.

In Florence County, emergency managers encountered problems last year while trying to find generators to use.

"We now have developed some stand-alone contracts, so next year we can better prepare for that when stuff like that happens," said Andrew Golden, public information officer for Florence County Emergency Management.

A combined emergency operations center and 911 dispatch department expected to be open in the next couple of years will also facilitate communication during disasters.

"It's at the other end of the building. They'll be right beside the EOC now, so we can all coordinate that stuff and get information to go between the two quicker," Golden said.

Florence County has a policy to not open warming shelters solely due to low temperatures, however, people can go to the Salvation Army on Hoffmeyer Road at night. The Salvation Army will stay open during the day when temperatures are in the 20s. The city of Marion will have a warming shelter open through the weekend.

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